Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What Does the First Amendment Say?

Wow, I wasn't initially going to post on this, but this article by one Ken Paulson of one First Amendment Center has so infuriated me, that I've got to comment on it.

Paulson starts the article correctly, the first amendment is pretty misunderstood, mainly due to the liberal obfuscation that has gone on in the past, oh, 75 or so years.

Paulson says,
Democratic candidate Chris Coons was quick to tell O'Donnell that religion and government are kept separate by the First Amendment.
"You're telling me that's in the First Amendment?" she responded.
Indeed it is.
Indeed it is, Mr. Paulson? Really? Let's see what the first amendment says with regard to the subject matter at hand. The religion clause says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Well at first glance, I see nothing to suggest that the constitution says "separation of church and state" at all. It does say that congress can't make a law that establishes a religion, and can't prohibit the free exercise of religion. Seems to me that the restrictions here are pretty specific. But let's see what Paulson has to say to us in his article.

He asserts in big bold letters, "Keeping government out of religion and religion out of government is a core principle of the First Amendment." Okay, well, this kind of thing will certainly have a good argument to support it, since the actual document he claims says this doesn't actually say it at all. After quoting the establishment clause, he continues, "James Madison, the author of the Bill of Rights, would later explain the need for this separation, saying, 'religion and Govt. will both exist in greater purity, Â the less they are mixed together.'" Okay, so one quote from James Madison proves his point? Where does Madison here say anything about a separation of church and state?

Well let's look at the context of Madison's quote here to see what's being talked about. Immediately following what Paulson cites, Madison writes, "It was the belief of all sects at one time that the establishment of Religion by law was right and necessary; that the true religion ought to be established in exclusion of every other; and that the only question to be decided was, which was the true religion."1 Um, that doesn't look to me anything like the total abolition of religious recognition by the government, but rather a discussion about establishing, "by law," a religion of the state. There's nothing here about not acknowledging God in government at all. and certainly nothing there about teaching creationism in schools.

James Madison was a fierce proponent, as we all should be, of the first amendment. He was against the intrusion of the government into the life of the individual, as we all should be, especially on matters of religion. He battled legislation that would have instituted things that favored certain religions, like collecting taxes for specific churches.2 It's also patently obvious why forcing a religion on people by mandating it by law is a bad idea. First off, religion is about individual conviction, and the Christian religion is about a relationship, which cannot be coerced.

But this James Madison also said things like,
I have sometimes thought there could not be a stronger testimony in favor of religion or against temporal enjoyments, even the most rational and manly, than for men who occupy the most honorable and gainful departments and [who] are rising in reputation and wealth, publicly to declare their unsatisfactoriness by becoming fervent advocates in the cause of Christ; and I wish you may give in your evidence in this way.3
He thought that it would be a positive thing for men in positions of power to publicly pronounce their allegiance to the Christian religion. So, state religion bad; acknowledgement of religion, not bad. There is a marked difference between making a state religion, and teaching creationism in school.

Paulson then says,
The phrase stemmed from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. He cited the language of the First Amendment and said that it built "a wall of separation between Church and State." This was not just some poetic flourish. This was one of the nation's founders and author of the Declaration of Independence explaining exactly what the First Amendment means.
Paulson refers to truth, but gets it wrong. Yes, Jefferson, in response to the Danbury Baptist's fear of government intrusion in their worship, said that the government will not interfere because there is a wall separating the church from the state. But this was to assure them that the state will not infringe upon the rights of the people, not that God is to be extradited from the public square and relegated to chapels and bedrooms. Congress opens in prayer for Pete's sake.

To top it off, Paulson states, "The separation of church and state means that teachers in public schools can't teach their faith to their students." Oh come on. He argues that since teachers are public employees, they can't preach their faith to students. This assumes some pretty ridiculous things. 1) It assumes that creationism is a religion. It's not, it's a position on how the universe began that happens to be a part of a religion. 2) It assumes that if teachers mention something from a religion in class, it is preaching their faith. This is absurd.

Why is it that people like Paulson are so worried that big bad creationism could be mentioned in schools? If the theory that is propagated in schools today has such rousing evidential support, then certainly reasonable people will come to the conclusion that an alternative is wrong. Why is it that when the dogma of neo-Darwinism is questioned, there is such virulent and misleading things written about those who would criticize it? And why do people who fancy themselves experts on the first amendment attribute things to it that it doesn't say?

What does the first amendment say? It doesn't say what the left would have it say.


1 Madison, James. Letters And Other Writings Of James Madison, Fourth President Of The United States. Vol 3. Philadelphia: JP Lippincott & Co., 1865. 275.

2 Loconte, Joseph. "James Madison and Religious Liberty." The Heritage Foundation, 16 Mar 2001. Web. 19 Oct 2010. .

3 Letter to William Bradford, September 25, 1773

85 comments:

rrlane said...

Creationism is fine with me in school...as long as it's in a comparative religions class. Putting it in a science class is out of the question because there's nothing remotely scientific about it. Public schools shouldn't teach astrology or alchemy as science either.

And if we're going to go by the fact that the phrase "separation of church and state" doesn't appear in the Constitution as a means of saying it didn't exist to the framers (a specious argument, but we'll go with it here), the I guess that logic would dictate that god didn't exist to them because that word doesn't appear in the document either.

David said...

Which version of "creationism" are we talking about here?

bossmanham said...

rrlane,

I'd actually tend agree to an extent about teaching creationism in science classes. I wasn't necessarily endorsing that here, but rather decrying the use of the constitution in determining that, since it doesn't speak on the matter.

However, I'd like to hear your thoughts on teaching intelligent design in biology or astrophysics lessons. ID has been formulated as an inference to the best explanation that does not specify a specific designer, but only postulates that there is one based on the specified complexity. This is done in all different sorts of scientific fields all the time, like archeology and forensics, and is markedly different than what is typically known as creationism.

I, however, disagree that the argument I've offered is "specious." If the words aren't in the document, then they aren't law. If someone wants them to be law, then the constitution needs to be amended to include them.

I guess that logic would dictate that god didn't exist to them because that word doesn't appear in the document either

I'm not sure how you're tying this analogy together. God isn't a law, but rather a being who exists independent of our legislative documents. Laws of the US don't exist apart from being written down in some form and instantiated by the legislative process.

And God does appear in the constitution.

The Seeking Disciple said...

I know this is not your point Brennon but Rraine, what part of evolution is scientific that makes creationism not the same? Both, when based on the scientific hypothesis, are by faith. However, since God Himself was there at the beginning of creation, I will take His word for it above evolutionary theories (Genesis 1-2).

David said...

"I'd actually tend agree to an extent about teaching creationism in science classes. I wasn't necessarily endorsing that here, but rather decrying the use of the constitution in determining that, since it doesn't speak on the matter."

Before we decide if the Constitution speaks to the matter of teaching creationism in science class, don't we have to know which version of creationism we're talking about?


"And God does appear in the constitution."

Where does God appear? Is it in the part that keeps slavery intact?

bossmanham said...

David,

Before we decide if the Constitution speaks to the matter of teaching creationism in science class, don't we have to know which version of creationism we're talking about?

How do you normally define it?

Where does God appear? Is it in the part that keeps slavery intact?

No....I'm speaking of active parts of the constitution.

David said...

"How do you normally define it?"

Um, since you're the one that thinks that the Constitution says nothing about teaching creationism as science, I think it's up to you to define the term. There are more versions of creationism than I can count, so you need to be specific.

"No....I'm speaking of active parts of the constitution."

Slavery was an "active" part of the Constitution for almost a hundred years. Where was God during those years?

But in the meantime, where is the word "God" in the Constitution?

rrlane said...

No, God does NOT appear in the Constitution once.

As to the rest, there is no scientific, peer-reviewed, falsifiable, repeatable test that follows scientific method. It's not science, so it doesn't merit being in a science classroom.

And the matter of what the first amendment means was settled hundreds of years ago and is writ into law. It's legally irrefutable until and unless the Supreme Court reverses decisions made before any of us were born.

bossmanham said...

Roy, I wanted to reply to your comment. I actually was going to bring that up, but forgot. I'd be interested in a response to the Seeking Disciple's post, if you want.

David,

Um, since you're the one that thinks that the Constitution says nothing about teaching creationism as science, I think it's up to you to define the term. There are more versions of creationism than I can count, so you need to be specific.

I think it's up to you. If you don't want something done because you think it violates the constitution, it seems to me it would be your job to define it. Otherwise we aren't talking about anything.

To help you out, most people, I assume, would consider the young earth variety the one that they mean when they say "creationism," though "creationism" could be old earth as well. It seems that most Darwinians want to define it as anything that would dare question Darwinian dogma.

Slavery was an "active" part of the Constitution for almost a hundred years. Where was God during those years?

What does this have to do with anything? Are you wanting to discuss the problem of evil?

rrlane,

As to the rest, there is no scientific, peer-reviewed, falsifiable, repeatable test that follows scientific method.

Well, you think creationism is false, don't you? You think modern science has falsified it, don't you? It's clearly testable and falsifiable. Young earth can be falsified if we find that the age of the earth is beyond what is predicted. Old earth could be falsified if a macroevolutionary change could be observed.

I wonder if neo-Darwinian evolution could ever be falsified? Have we observed the types of mutations that would be required? Do we have the millions upon millions of transitional fossils, or just a few spurious transitional fossils? Could it be that concluding that all species descended from a single organism is extrapolating a bit far beyond the available data?

Finally, God in the constitution:

Article VII

"Attest William Jackson Secretary

done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independance of the United States of America the Twelfth In witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names..."

rrlane said...

Well, you think creationism is false, don't you? You think modern science has falsified it, don't you? It's clearly testable and falsifiable. Young earth can be falsified if we find that the age of the earth is beyond what is predicted. Old earth could be falsified if a macroevolutionary change could be observed.

Young Earth has been falsified scientifically, and I don't know why you're bringing evolution into a geological example.

And talk about your red herring arguments. You're saying that because you can't observe something firsthand, you can't prove it utter nonsense. If I see a person on the street that I've never seen before, I can assume he was a child an infant earlier in his life without having seen him grow up.

The evidence for evolution is utterly overwhelming. Denying it is akin to denying gravity exists. The commonality between the DNA of humans and Chimps is probably the easiest way for a rational to come to that conclusion. If you want a fascinating video which spells it out undeniably, here you go: http://youtu.be/TUxLR9hdorI.


done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord

Yeah, I waiting for you to bring that up. It's a dating convention of the time. It means no more that saying "AD" after a year. It doesn't work to prove your point any more than when I stub my toe and shout "God Dammit!" it makes me a theist. It's pretty slim pickin's if you are reducing the argument to a calendar convention.

If you want a great, unbiased history of the development of the the separation, go to the library of Congress's page. http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/9806/danbury.html

It's a no brainer. You can argue until that you don't agree that this is the way it should be, and I'm fine with that. You are certainly entitled to your own opinion. I only take issue with obvious left turns from the facts.

rrlane said...

It seems that most Darwinians want to define it as anything that would dare question Darwinian dogma.

There is no dogma. Parts of what Darwin hypothesized have been proven wrong, and have been duly corrected, and the scientist who can verifiably and scientifically prove the theory evolution wrong would be famous for hundreds of years. Science THRIVES on finding errors and making corrections, and the first person to verifiably and scientifically prove evolution wrong would make his name for all time.

When you understand how science works, you realize how silly the notion of "scientific dogma" really sounds.

bossmanham said...

Yeah, I waiting for you to bring that up. It's a dating convention of the time. It means no more that saying "AD" after a year. It doesn't work to prove your point any more than when I stub my toe and shout "God Dammit!" it makes me a theist. It's pretty slim pickin's if you are reducing the argument to a calendar convention.

And I knew you'd say that. But the claim was "God isn't in the constitution." But He clearly is mentioned, and not just any god, but Jesus of Nazareth. That is who we date our calendars off of after all.

As I've pointed out before, historically, civilizations have accounted time according to the king in power at that point, ie the Xth year of king Y's reign. But, the US constitution reckons time according to 1787 years since the birth of Christ. You may not like it, the revisionists who change it to BCE and CE may not like it, but thems the facts.

You can claim it's just a common parlance, but then you must argue that about every reference to God in that time. But that's ridiculous. The culture was thoroughly Christianized, whether the founders were or not (most were).

And, if the point was to utterly expunge god from any government recognition, then the founders were pretty dumb to stick "year of our Lord" in there, weren't they?

But every time I point this out to separatists, they have similarly huffy reactions, then do the hand waving shuffle. Fact is, Jesus is in the constitution.

David said...

Done in Convention...in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven..."

THAT is what you are referring to when you say that God is in the Constituion? Really? That's it? Heh, heh, heh. That's truly, truly pathetic.

David said...

By the way, speaking of God and early American history, maybe the reason that the founders wanted to avoid much God talk in the Constitution, etc., was the fact that what they were doing was rebelling the authority appointed by God. The Bible says to accept those place in power over you, and the American rebels rejected this NT teaching.

David said...

"To help you out, most people, I assume, would consider the young earth variety the one that they mean when they say "creationism," though "creationism" could be old earth as well. It seems that most Darwinians want to define it as anything that would dare question Darwinian dogma.

Ok, and what is the basis of young earth creationism? Where does it come from? Why do people believe YEC despite all all evidence to the contrary? Can you teach YEC without considering these questions?

As far as "Darwinians" defining things, "Darwinians" just want science taught in science classrooms. Almost everything that I can think of that might come under the banner of "creationism" is non-scientific and/or clearly religion-based and/or so thorougly disproved unless one appeals to miracles (i.e. appeal to religious argument) that I see no reason to teach any of it. It not just that creationism is religious in nature, it's also bad science. Either way, it doesn't belong in the science classroom.

David said...

"I wonder if neo-Darwinian evolution could ever be falsified?"

Yes. Easily. It just hasn't been yet.

rrlane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rrlane said...

But every time I point this out to separatists, they have similarly huffy reactions, then do the hand waving shuffle. Fact is, Jesus is in the constitution.

Wow...that's quite a leap over a chasm where evidence should be.

And every time I point out the obvious to a person who doesn't let evidence sway their beliefs, I get an equally vacuous answer like the one you gave.

If following an innocuous turn of phrase or cultural convenience is that monumental, then if you celebrate Christmas on December 25, I guess that makes you a pagan. If you've kissed under the mistletoe or knocked on wood for luck, you must be a druid. I told my wife "bless you" when she sneezed an hour ago, so I must be a theist and didn't know it.

There is zero mention of the word "god" in the Constitution, and the word "lord" is as incidental as if you found the word "J-E-S-U-S" by taking the third letter of the second word of every sentence in the sixth paragraph. It is not used in any religious way, and (a point you did not bother to refute) the courts have upheld the idea of the Wall of Separation being implicit in the document for well over a hundred years. You don't have a leg to stand on in this argument. "Specious" is too kind a word.

bossmanham said...

So far I've got appeal to ridicule and hand waving, but fact remains, the constitution has Jesus in it, contrary to your claim.

If following an innocuous turn of phrase or cultural convenience is that monumental, then if you celebrate Christmas on December 25, I guess that makes you a pagan

How is this anything akin to what we're talking about? No one is saying this makes anyone anything, it just means Jesus is in the constitution. Secularist Fail. You seriously need to work on your analogies.

There is zero mention of the word "god" in the Constitution, and the word "lord" is as incidental as if you found the word "J-E-S-U-S" by taking the third letter of the second word of every sentence in the sixth paragraph

Yet Jesus is in the constitution. And "Lord" capitalized is known to be referring to God.

And the whining shall continue, I'm sure.

bossmanham said...

You don't have a leg to stand on in this argument.

Heh, except that Jesus is in the constitution.

rrlane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rrlane said...

Aaaaaannnnddd if that's what this conversation has devolved to, I guess it's about spent.

So long, and thanks for all the fish. ;)

bossmanham said...

Aaaaaannnnddd if that's what this conversation has devolved to, I guess it's about spent.

So long, and thanks for all the fish. ;)


Typical, though that was a pretty funny movie.

rrlane said...

Typical. It was from a book first.

Dale said...

Nothing wrong with what Christine O'Donell said -- The "separation of Church and State" does not exist in the United States Constitution. It isn't there, the language does not appear. Period. You will search in vain. She was right. Coons was wrong. ALL those so-called "law students" were wrong -- and they are symptomatic of what's WRONG with our Government. They are CLUELESS as to the TRUE meaning of the Constitution.

The language of "separation" was the intent of the Founders to the extent that they desired no establishment of a NATIONAL RELIGION or CHURCH. In other words, they wanted no "Church of America" like there was a "Church of England." Of course that's well established in their writings...

Have you read the State Constitutions? At the time the Federal Constitution was written, ELEVEN of the 13 original colonies had "State Churches." The Federal Courts NEVER found that any of those State Churches were "unconstitutional." Why? Because the First Amendment ONLY pertained to the establishment of an official NATIONAL RELIGION or CHURCH by the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

The 1st Amendment DID NOT apply to prayers, to meetings or religious groups, to regulations of religious practices -- to the contrary, the Free Exercise clause flat out BANNED those very practices BY the Federal Government. Yet, what the Feds have done is played the one clause against the other -- to STEAL the Religious freedoms of the people from them, and to horde governmental authority to themselves that rightfully belong ONLY to the States OR to "We The People."

The misrepresentations and distortions of the Constitution have gone on long enough. It's time for the purposeful distortion and obfuscation of the original intent and meaning of the Constitution to STOP -- or be stopped.

David said...

"Heh, except that Jesus is in the constitution."

This is just sad. One word in the context of a date. Yes, the word is there, but don't you think it's just sad if this is the best you can do with respect to God in the Constituion?

David said...

Dale,

"ALL those so-called "law students" were wrong -- and they are symptomatic of what's WRONG with our Government. They are CLUELESS as to the TRUE meaning of the Constitution."

Why stop at law students? I guess that this would apply to the current justices on the Supreme Court, too, yes? And the Supreme Court justices of the past several decades? They are clueless, too?

"The First Amendment ONLY pertained to the establishment of an official NATIONAL RELIGION or CHURCH by the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. Yet, what the Feds have done is played the one clause against the other -- to STEAL the Religious freedoms of the people from them, and to horde governmental authority to themselves that rightfully belong ONLY to the States OR to "We The People." The misrepresentations and distortions of the Constitution have gone on long enough. It's time for the purposeful distortion and obfuscation of the original intent and meaning of the Constitution to STOP -- or be stopped.
horde governmental authority to themselves that rightfully belong ONLY to the States OR to "We The People."

Err, I think you need to read the 14th Amendment again. You know, one of those admendments approved by "We the People".

By the way, is any government stopping from going to church, donating to a church, praying in private, etc.? Has any government closed any churches? Do you get a tax deduction for money donated to a church? If you want to go door-to-door to spread your beliefs, does the goverment stop you? Can you be fired solely because of your Christian faith? Are you prevented from holding political office because of your faith?

You have plenty of "religious freedom". Get a grip.

Mr. Guthrie said...

There has been a peer reviewed scientific study from an ID proponent. Dr. Stephen Meyer's paper, "The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories," appeared in the 8/24/04 issue of the "Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington," a publication of the Biological Society of Washington published by the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institute.

The Bible does not forbid Christians from rebelling against the state. In Rom. 13 and 1Pet. 2: 12-20,both Paul and Peter state that the purpose of the state is to punish evil doers and reward the law abiding. The state punishes conduct that threatens the general welfare of society, conduct that threatens the life, liberty, or property of other citizens. In these scriptural passages, Christians are warned against engaging in activities the state is divinely ordained to punish. Nothing is said about rebellion against a state that threatens the general welfare. When Jesus told us to give to Caesar what is Caesar's, He commanded us to give to the state what it needs to protect the general welfare. The state can demand nothing more.

The author of the phrase,"seperation of church and state," Jefferson, when he founded the University of Virginia, included a School of Divinity. Jefferson had no problem with a state university teaching religion just so long as no one denomination was favored over another. And in his culture and context, he meant the Christian religion. And this is in spite of his questioning of Chrisitan orthodoxy. So the term"seperation of church and state" has been twisted by Supreme Court justices to mean what they want it to mean. All these Federal and State Court decisions based on a false reading of the phrase are laws based on lies.

David said...

13Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, 14or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. 16Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. 17Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.

1 Peter 2:13-17 (New International Version)

David said...

Speaking of things that don't appear in a given document, where in the Bible does it say that the government shall be "of the people, by the people and for the people"? Where's the bit where God says that the people get to chose who rules over them?

Mr. Guthrie said...

As I noted in my comment, nothing in that verse forbids Christians from rebelling against the state that threatens the life, liberty or property, the general welfare, of its citizens. The verses here, as in Rom. 13 declare that the states function is to protect citizens from conduct that threatens the general welfare. A modern application of this principle is how the Chinese Church reacted to Japanese occupation in the 1930s and 1940s. Some Church leaders taught that as long as the Japanese engaged in legitimate enterprises, such as buildiong roads and repairing bridges, Christians should cooperate with the authorities. But if the Japanese demanded cooperation in enterprises that were solely for the purposes of enslaving and murdering others, then Christians could refuse to obey.

No, the concept of "we the people" does not appear in the Bible. But it derives from a Christian world view, newly rediscovered during the Reformation, that states that each individual is made in the image of God. That truth gives each individual the right to determine his/her own destiny free of coercion from other individuals or the state. It also gives that person the right to worship God according to their own conscience, or choose not to do so at all. The only limitation to this right is that one cannot act in a manner that does harm to others. That is the basis of human dignity and the roots of our democratic system. This was what Jefferson referred to in the Declaration of Independance when he stated that all men were endowed by their creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Constitution is the vehicle by which the rights proclaimed in the declaration are maintained. Even those who deviated from Christian orthodoxy, such as Jefferson and Franklin, believed that without religion, a democratic society could not survive. Democratic concepts were foreign to pre-reformation Christians yet Christians have maintained in every era the duty to oppose the state for the sake of conscience. Many early Christians refused to engage in military service because they would be marching under Roman banners that proclaimed that Caesar was God and some refused because they believed military conflict violated the biblical injuction against killing others. Luther was opposed to many of the democratic forces unleased by the Reformation, yet he himself put his life on the line opposing the most powerful political force of his day, the Catholic Church. The state of Luther's time was an enforcer of the Church's will. Modern democratic thought grew out of the belief that democratic institutions best guarantee freedom to worship according to one's conscience and that any state that threatens that freedom is no longer a legitimate authority. Those Christians who actively sought to bring down oppressive communist regiemes were not violating any scriptural command.

Mr. Guthrie said...

As I noted in my comment, nothing in that verse forbids Christians from rebelling against the state that threatens the life, liberty or property, the general welfare, of its citizens. The verses here, as in Rom. 13 declare that the states function is to protect citizens from conduct that threatens the general welfare. A modern application of this principle is how the Chinese Church reacted to Japanese occupation in the 1930s and 1940s. Some Church leaders taught that as long as the Japanese engaged in legitimate enterprises, such as building roads and repairing bridges, Christians should cooperate with the authorities. But if the Japanese demanded cooperation in enterprises that were solely for the purposes of enslaving and murdering others, then Christians could refuse to obey.

No, the concept of "we the people" does not appear in the Bible. But it derives from a Christian world view, newly rediscovered during the Reformation, that states that each individual is made in the image of God. That truth gives each individual the right to determine his/her own destiny free of coercion from other individuals or the state. It also gives that person the right to worship God according to their own conscience, or choose not to do so at all. The only limitation to this right is that one cannot act in a manner that does harm to others. That is the basis of human dignity and the roots of our democratic system. This was what Jefferson referred to in the Declaration of Independance when he stated that all men were endowed by their creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Constitution is the vehicle by which the rights proclaimed in the Declaration are maintained. Even those who deviated from Christian orthodoxy, such as Jefferson and Franklin, believed that without religion, a democratic society could not survive. Democratic concepts were foreign to pre-reformation Christians, yet Christians have maintained in every era the duty to oppose the state for the sake of conscience. Many early Christians refused to engage in military service because they would be marching under Roman banners that proclaimed that Caesar was God and some refused because they believed military conflict violated the biblical injuction against killing others. Luther was opposed to many of the democratic forces unleased by the Reformation, yet he himself put his life on the line opposing the most powerful political force of his day, the Catholic Church. The state of Luther's time was an enforcer of the Church's will. Modern democratic thought grew out of the belief that democratic institutions best guarantee freedom to worship according to one's conscience and that any state that threatens that freedom is no longer a legitimate authority. Those Christians who actively sought to bring down oppressive communist regiemes were not violating any scriptural command.

Mr. Guthrie said...

As I noted in my comment, nothing in that verse forbids Christians from rebelling against the state that threatens the life, liberty or property, the general welfare, of its citizens. The verses here, as in Rom. 13 declare that the states function is to protect citizens from conduct that threatens the general welfare. A modern application of this principle is how the Chinese Church reacted to Japanese occupation in the 1930s and 1940s. Some Church leaders taught that as long as the Japanese engaged in legitimate enterprises, such as building roads and repairing bridges, Christians should cooperate with the authorities. But if the Japanese demanded cooperation in enterprises that were solely for the purposes of enslaving and murdering others, then Christians could refuse to obey.

No, the concept of "we the people" does not appear in the Bible. But it derives from a Christian world view, newly rediscovered during the Reformation, that states that each individual is made in the image of God. That truth gives each individual the right to determine his/her own destiny free of coercion from other individuals or the state. It also gives that person the right to worship God according to their own conscience, or choose not to do so at all. The only limitation to this right is that one cannot act in a manner that does harm to others. That is the basis of human dignity and the roots of our democratic system. This was what Jefferson referred to in the Declaration of Independance when he stated that all men were endowed by their creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Constitution is the vehicle by which the rights proclaimed in the Declaration are maintained. Even those who deviated from Christian orthodoxy, such as Jefferson and Franklin, believed that without religion, a democratic society could not survive. Democratic concepts were foreign to pre-reformation Christians, yet Christians have maintained in every era the duty to oppose the state for the sake of conscience. Many early Christians refused to engage in military service because they would be marching under Roman banners that proclaimed that Caesar was God and some refused because they believed military conflict violated the biblical injuction against killing others. Luther was opposed to many of the democratic forces unleased by the Reformation, yet he himself put his life on the line opposing the most powerful political force of his day, the Catholic Church. The state of Luther's time was an enforcer of the Church's will. Modern democratic thought grew out of the belief that democratic institutions best guarantee freedom to worship according to one's conscience and that any state that threatens that freedom is no longer a legitimate authority. Those Christians who actively sought to bring down oppressive communist regiemes were not violating any scriptural command.

Mr. Guthrie said...

Technical difficulties resulted in my message being sent 3 times.

David said...

Mr. G.,

Well, I think that you've provided a nice example of how one might read cetrain things into specific verses, in particular, and the Bible, in general, when those things aren't actually there. But I thought the we weren't supposed to do this. If it's not clearly stated in the document, then it's not there, right? One is not supposed to draw conclusions that weren't intended by the writers of a given document, right?

What part of "submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men" and "honor the king" isn't clear? I don't see any exceptions listed here. I don't see anything here that says that you don't have to submit or don't have to honor if you are taxed without representation or if the king quarters troops in your home. In the 1760s and 1770s, the king taxed the colonists to pay the costs of "protecting citizens from conduct that threatened the general welfare".

You are to submit and honor. Period. If we can't say that the 1st Amendment means "seperate church and state", because this phrase isn't there, then I don't see how you can conclude that you don't have to submit and honor when there are no conditions listed here that exempt one from this obligation.

Now, if you're willing to admit that words in documents like the Constitution and the Bible might be subject to multiple interpretations, well, then...

Mr. Guthrie said...

Of course people may interpret the same scriptures differently. I see nothing in these scriptures that deny Christians the right to overthrow the state. I see the behavior being warned about as the behavior that threatens other citizens. If you read it differently, then you do. I see nothing in these verses which supports your position. As Paul was not writing Romans during a time of empire wide persecution, I don't think attempting to overthrow the state was on his mind. Yes, one can read provisions of the Constitution differently, yet only one who is either ignorant or dishonest concerning the language of the first amendment could conclude that it forbids all cooperation between church and state. The modern view of seperation of church and state is a foisting of views contrary to the meaning of the First Amendment onto the document. The fact that judicial proponents of such a view used Jefferson's quote taken out of context as historical support reveals their intellectual dishonesty. The colonists did not revolt merely for the sake of taxation. After all, the colonists were taxing themselves through action of the colonial legislatures to help pay the bill for British campaigns in America. What the British were doing was using the power to tax to make the colonists so dependent on Britian that they could not be a challenge to British supremecy. The Colinists saw how Britian reduced Ireland into starvation and saw the dangers of doing nothing. read

David said...

"I see nothing in these scriptures that deny Christians the right to overthrow the state."

How does "overthrowing the state" mesh with "submit and honor"? Are you denying that Paul said that Christians should submit to and honor the kings that rule over them? How can one rationalize violating the specific command to submit and honor in the case of a state that provided more rights to its colonists than were available to the vast, vast, vast majority of the world's population at that time. As you would say, I see nothing in these verses which supports your position. Also, given the many ways in which one can interpret this verse and the Bible as a whole, maybe we should go easy on the "ignorant and dishonest" charges with respect to ways to interpreting the Constitution that differ from yours.

David said...

"As Paul was not writing Romans during a time of empire wide persecution, I don't think attempting to overthrow the state was on his mind."

What difference does this make? Does God command you to submit and obey or not?

Mr. Guthrie said...

I think I have articulated well enough my position concerning the verses written by Paul and Peter. And you have never explained your position concerning how Jesus' statement to render to Caesar the things that are Caesars limits how much obedience a state can Biblically expect from its citizens. You speak of the "rights" the Colonists were fighting for in selfish terms. As I alluded to earlier, they were fighting to preserve their ability to determine their own destiny according to their own conscience and preventing themselves from being starved into submission as the Irish were. Yes, the vast, vast ,vast majority of people did not possess such rights. But the colonists had enjoyed them almost unmolested for over 100 years because of their British heritage produced in part through a Christian view of the individual as rediscovered by the Reformation. Because these rights were preserved, the enjoyment of those rights are now experienced by people all over the globe who would otherwise be still in bondage to the state. To my way of Christian thinking, not only was this result not a violation of scripture, but the fruits of the colonists actions attest to God's favor on them. Secularism alone does not protect the individual. No revolution based purely on secular principles has ever succeeded in producing a society that protects the conscience of the individual. History subsequent to the American revolution bears this out. Finally, I made it clear that one can differ on what the Constitution says and what the Founding Fathers meant when they wrote it as well as those who wrote subsequent amendments. But the modern doctrine of seperation of church and state which seeks to relegate all religious activity to private life, which says religion has no place in the public square, certainly cannot be read into the text of the 1st Amendment. The origin of this doctrine is a twentieth century practrice by jurists of taking a phrase which does not appear in the Constitution and twisting it to mean something the author of it, Jefferson, did not intend. Therefore, the charge of intellectual honesty stands.

Mr. Guthrie said...

I think I have articulated well enough my position concerning the verses written by Paul and Peter. And you have never explained your position concerning how Jesus' statement to render to Caesar the things that are Caesars limits how much obedience a state can Biblically expect from its citizens. You speak of the "rights" the Colonists were fighting for in selfish terms. As I alluded to earlier, they were fighting to preserve their ability to determine their own destiny according to their own conscience and preventing themselves from being starved into submission as the Irish were. Yes, the vast, vast ,vast majority of people did not possess such rights. But the colonists had enjoyed them almost unmolested for over 100 years because of their British heritage produced in part through a Christian view of the individual as rediscovered by the Reformation. Because these rights were preserved, the enjoyment of those rights are now experienced by people all over the globe who would otherwise be still in bondage to the state. To my way of Christian thinking, not only was this result not a violation of scripture, but the fruits of the colonists actions attest to God's favor on them. Secularism alone does not protect the individual. No revolution based purely on secular principles has ever succeeded in producing a society that protects the conscience of the individual. History subsequent to the American revolution bears this out. Finally, I made it clear that one can differ on what the Constitution says and what the Founding Fathers meant when they wrote it as well as those who wrote subsequent amendments. But the modern doctrine of seperation of church and state which seeks to relegate all religious activity to private life, which says religion has no place in the public square, certainly cannot be read into the text of the 1st Amendment. The origin of this doctrine is a twentieth century practrice by jurists of taking a phrase which does not appear in the Constitution and twisting it to mean something the author of it, Jefferson, did not intend. Therefore, the charge of intellectual honesty stands.

Mr. Guthrie said...

I think I have articulated well enough my position concerning the verses written by Paul and Peter. And you have never explained your position concerning how Jesus' statement to render to Caesar the things that are Caesars limits how much obedience a state can Biblically expect from its citizens. You speak of the "rights" the Colonists were fighting for in selfish terms. As I alluded to earlier, they were fighting to preserve their ability to determine their own destiny according to their own conscience and preventing themselves from being starved into submission as the Irish were. Yes, the vast, vast ,vast majority of people did not possess such rights. But the colonists had enjoyed them almost unmolested for over 100 years because of their British heritage produced in part through a Christian view of the individual as rediscovered by the Reformation. Because these rights were preserved, the enjoyment of those rights are now experienced by people all over the globe who would otherwise be still in bondage to the state. To my way of Christian thinking, not only was this result not a violation of scripture, but the fruits of the colonists actions attest to God's favor on them. Secularism alone does not protect the individual. No revolution based purely on secular principles has ever succeeded in producing a society that protects the conscience of the individual. History subsequent to the American revolution bears this out. Finally, I made it clear that one can differ on what the Constitution says and what the Founding Fathers meant when they wrote it as well as those who wrote subsequent amendments. But the modern doctrine of seperation of church and state which seeks to relegate all religious activity to private life, which says religion has no place in the public square, certainly cannot be read into the text of the 1st Amendment. The origin of this doctrine is a twentieth century practrice by jurists of taking a phrase which does not appear in the Constitution and twisting it to mean something the author of it, Jefferson, did not intend. Therefore, the charge of intellectual honesty stands.

Mr. Guthrie said...

I apologize for the multiple postings. The difficulty seems to be arising from the computer I am using when I proofread and edit my comments before publication.

Mr. Guthrie said...

The last sentance in my comments should read "the charge of intellectual dishonesty still stands."

bossmanham said...

Mr. Guthrie,

Multiple post away! You pretty much have to here on blogger. There's no rule against it here.

And I think your posts are great, and very informative. I'm glad to have someone with a background in history backing me up here.

I've been busy today.

David said...

“And you have never explained your position concerning how Jesus' statement to render to Caesar the things that are Caesars limits how much obedience a state can Biblically expect from its citizens.”

Well, first, why do you take the “render to Caesar passage” as explicitly limiting the degree to which citizens must obey? If I recall, Jesus is answering a specific question about taxes, yes? No one asked Jesus about other aspects of obedience. At any point in the NT, does Jesus suggest that it’s ok to rebel against the ruling authority? Is there anything in Paul’s statement that indicates that obedience is explicitly limited to paying taxes? Or are you reading more into the text than is really there?

And even if we limit obedience to paying taxes, then what can we conclude about the behavior of the colonists who refused to pay their taxes? Wasn’t taxation without representation a major cause of the American Revolution? When the colonists refused to render to Caesar, they were clearly and explicitly violating both the requirement to render to Caesar and the requirement to submit and obey. You did say that God requires that all pay their taxes, yes?

“As I alluded to earlier, they were fighting to preserve their ability to determine their own destiny according to their own conscience and preventing themselves from being starved into submission as the Irish were.”

Well, actually, I think that they were mostly fighting to preserve their ability to make more money and grab more land. And you know, in all that I've read about the American Revolution, I've never read that anyone in America seriously expected that King George was going to treat the colonists as the Irish were treated. How exactly was King George going to starve the Americans? This is nonsense.


“Yes, the vast, vast ,vast majority of people did not possess such rights.”

Right, so we’re a long, long way from being able to rationalize or justify actions that are in violation of the command to submit and obey.

David said...

“But the colonists had enjoyed them almost unmolested for over 100 years because of their British heritage produced in part through a Christian view of the individual as rediscovered by the Reformation.”

Unmolested…because they had an ocean between them and the mother country. Not because of a “Christian view”.

Rediscovered by the Reformation? How much time passed from the time of Christ to the “rediscovery”? 1500 years? Tell me, if the Bible is so clear about individual rights, why does it take 1500 years to “discover” or “rediscover” these right? Maybe this origin of an emphasis on individual rights has its roots in something other than Christianity.

And we are talking about the same Reformation that produced Protestant leaders that were just as eager to torture and kill those with different views as the unreformed Catholics, yes? This is the same Britain that persecuted numerous religious groups in the 1600s and 1700s, in part, by citing biblical principles, yes? Again, maybe this emphasis on individual rights has its roots in something other than Christianity. (Here's a hint: Check out the rise of the middle class.)

“Because these rights were preserved, the enjoyment of those rights are now experienced by people all over the globe who would otherwise be still in bondage to the state.”

So, it’s ok to sin and violate the commands of God if the ends are good. The ends justify the means. I’ll remember that.

“To my way of Christian thinking, not only was this result not a violation of scripture, but the fruits of the colonists actions attest to God's favor on them.”

So, the colonists won, because they were favored by God. Sigh. Sure. You know, every winner thinks that the gods are on their side. Been that way for thousands and thousands of years.

“No revolution based purely on secular principles has ever succeeded in producing a society that protects the conscience of the individual.”

So, there aren’t any secular societies that protect the conscience of the individual?

Lots of words, but in the end, no direct answer to the questions.

How does "overthrowing the state" mesh with "submit and honor"? Are you denying that Paul said that Christians should submit to and honor the kings that rule over them? Does God command you to submit and obey or not?

Yes or no?

Do you have any answers that do not go beyond what the text actually says or that does not twist the the text to make it mean something the author did not intend?

David said...

This is really simple.

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.

So, God established King George. Right?

David said...

Mr. G.,

One last question. I assume that you are in favor of beginning the public school day with a prayer to Allah led by a Muslim cleric, yes?

Mr. Guthrie said...

Oh, David, where shall I begin? Sigh.
I certainly have answered your original question. You just don't like the answer. If you cannot really find an answer in my previous comments, well, that cannot be helped. I think others should be able to. As for the reference to Christ and rendering to Caesar, it is established practice to interpret scripture in light of other scriptures. Both Peter and Paul as well as Jesus touch upon the reason why a state exists. When Jesus said to render to Caesar the things that are Caesars and render to God the things that are God's, he was speaking of more than paying taxes. Your analysis of scripture goes beyond any literalism many secularists accuse the Fundamentalists of engaging in. Also, in Acts, Peter and John were warned by the religious leaders not to preach in Jesus' name. They disobeyed one of the governing authorities and there is no indication from the text they violated God's word in doing so.

You need to read my comments more thoroughly. As I said earlier, the colonists paid their taxes through acts of their colonial legislatures. You say that in all you read of the American Revolution, you have not come across the references as to how the British treated the Irish and how that influenced the Colonists. You need to read some more. I have a degree in history and have been reading American history for over 30 years. The British taxed all items in Ireland that were essential for economic activity in Ireland. They used the power of taxation until Ireland was economically dependant upon Britain for everything and could not resist Britains will. Britain was attempting the same in America. Britain rightly feared that the population in the colonies would one day exceed Britain's and with their population, natural resources and future territory, they would one day break free of Britain. The British forbad all economic activity that would have prospered the colonies, which if not resisted, would have reduced the colonies to economic slaves of the British. The colonists saw this and did all they could to resist this fate. The irony is that while they were resisting, they wished to remain a part of the British empire. The desire for independance did not gain traction until a year after hostilities commenced. Washington and his aids toasted the King everyday for a year after the war began.
I did not say the colonists remained unmolested for over 100 years because of a Christian world view. You are correct, they were unmolested because of a vast ocean between Britain and America as well as the fact that during these years Britian was preoccupied. My reference to the Christian world view referred to the heritage of rights as Englishmen which were rooted in a Christian world view. Again, you need to read my comments thoroughly.
As to your comment concerning the passage of 1500 years between the birth of Christ and the Reformation, I said that the importance of the individual in Christian thought was rediscovered during the Reformation. The importance of the individual had been lost by the Church, but not for 1500 years. The early Church affirmed that Man was made in God's image and therefore all men had a dignity that no one should try to violate. A reading of Christian writings and a study of Church history would demonstrate this. Yes, the Reformation saw Protestants kill one another. Yet the democratic forces unleashed by the rediscovery of the importance of the individual during the Reformation are still the foundation of the freedom we enjoy today. Modern democratic societies have their freedom rooted in this rediscovery, not in their own secularism. Modern secularism begins by espousing tolerance for the individual but in the end sees the individual as a threat to "the common good."

Mr. Guthrie said...

I had dealt with the issue of school prayer, but a message came up telling me my original answer was too long, so I deleted that part. As it is too late to deal with it now, I will deal with it tomorrow.

David said...

“I certainly have answered your original question. You just don't like the answer. “

Actually, I’m not sure that you really gave a straight yes or no answer. I think that your answer goes beyond the text and twist the words. I thought that we weren’t supposed to do this.

“As for the reference to Christ and rendering to Caesar, it is established practice to interpret scripture in light of other scriptures. Both Peter and Paul as well as Jesus touch upon the reason why a state exists.“

What does this have to do with limiting obedience to paying taxes? Does God say that if a ruler fails to behave well, then the whole render, submit and honor thing is null and void? Is there any hint at all that the people have the right to change their rulers under any condition or for any reason?

The Bible says that rulers are appointed by God, so only God can remove them if they fail. There isn’t the slightest suggestion that if a state fails to live up to the reason for its existence, the people can rebel. There is no government of, by and for the people here, regardless of how badly a ruler behaves. If we reading other scriptures, we find that the scriptures speak of rendering, submitting and honoring. Nowhere do the scriptures speak of rebelling.

“When Jesus said to render to Caesar the things that are Caesars and render to God the things that are God's, he was speaking of more than paying taxes. Your analysis of scripture goes beyond any literalism many secularists accuse the Fundamentalists of engaging in. “

I’m sorry, but I see no evidence that Jesus is speaking of anything more than taxes. I’m just trying to limit myself to the text itself. I’m just trying to do the same thing that you do when you read the first amendment. Don’t want to twist or add anything that isn’t there, right?

“Also, in Acts, Peter and John were warned by the religious leaders not to preach in Jesus' name. They disobeyed one of the governing authorities and there is no indication from the text they violated God's word in doing so.”

The Jews were not the political authority in Peter and John’s day. This does not qualify as rebellion against political rulers put in place by God.

David said...

“The British forbad all economic activity that would have prospered the colonies, which if not resisted, would have reduced the colonies to economic slaves of the British.”

Yes, as I said, they were mostly fighting to preserve their ability to make more money and grab more land. I don’t believe that this qualifies as justification for failure to render, submit and honor.

Could things have gotten as bad as they did in Ireland? I think that this is extremely unlikely. The English viewed the Irish as a savage, foreign and Catholic race. But the colonists were predominantly Protestant Englishmen, not Catholic savages. Until the colonists actually fired on the king’s men, there was little going on in the colonies that could be compared to the treatment of the Irish.


“The early Church affirmed that Man was made in God's image and therefore all men had a dignity that no one should try to violate.”

I think that you are confusing the possession of “dignity” with having specifically political rights. Even if “dignity” shouldn’t be violated, does that mean that we have a political right that says “dignity can’t be violated”? I think that you are reading beyond the text and inserting conclusions of your own. Did the early Church say that we all have certain political rights? Did the early Church say that because man is made in God’s image, we have a political right to vote, etc.?

I agree that parts of the NT promote the idea that every individual has some worth in the eyes of God. But this doesn’t mean that God says that you get political rights to go with this. Jesus says that each individual is worth something, but he doesn’t say that you have a political right to vote or a political right to change your rulers or a political right to assemble or a political right to exercise your beliefs without interference from the state. Slaves have worth, but they don’t have a political right to be free. It’s nice if one can be free, but one doesn’t have a right to be free. Once again, you are reading beyond the text, you know, doing what you say that we shouldn’t do with the Constitution.

In any event, Christianity most decidedly does not say that one has true freedom of conscience or that one is truly free to believe and worship as one sees fit. Quite the opposite.


“Modern democratic societies have their freedom rooted in this rediscovery, not in their own secularism.”

Seems to me that the movement towards more political freedom is far more closely tied to economic changes in the 1600s and 1700s and to a loosening of the grip of religious thinking and control over politics. Yes, some political philosophers will throw in a Bible verse or two to bolster their arguments, but the "Christian view" is hardly the driving force here.

Mr. Guthrie said...

David, no, the Bible does not say anything about political rights, but the Bible does not specifically address many modern aspects of life directly. For instance, the Bible contains many verses condemning drunkeness. However, the Bible says nothing about being high on drugs. Yet no one can say that they do not violate scripture by using drugs because the Bible does not directly addresses drug use. The same verses that condemn drunkeness can be used to condemn drug use. To limit what Jesus said regarding rendering to Caesar what is due to Caesar only to taxes is faulty Biblical analysis. One can take any scripture that may on the surface deal with a specific issue and apply it to other issues. I think you understand this and I think you really do understand my original point. I am not going to waste my time answering any more questions on this issue.
As to the issue of the authority of the religious leaders who forbad Peter and John to preach in Jesus' name, you are apparently unaware of the Roman system of occupation. When the Romans conquered a territory, they gave great leeway to local authority to administer the land. In this way the Romans hoped to secure the loyalty of the conquered people while getting these people to acknowledge Caesar as God. The religious leadership had authority under the Roman empire to administer to stone who they considered to be blasphemers. There were attampts to stone Jesus. The first Christian martyr Steven was stoned. Paul, before he was converted, had authority from the religious leaders to go from city to city to imprison and execute Christians.
Yes, governing authorities tenure is determined by God, but when God chooses to end an authorities tenure, His uses human agency to accomplish His purposes. This can be demonstrated all throughout scripture and subsequent human history.
Again, you are not reading what I have written closely. I never wrote that conditions in colonial America were the exact same conditions as were in Ireland at the time. What I wrote was that the colonists saw the trend of where British colonial measures and acted to prevent themselves from being reduced to the poverty and subjegation the Irish had to endure. Yes, the British looked upon the Irish as savages, but if you read much American history, you would no that the British ruling class held the colonists in great disdain. And as I wrote earlier, which apparently you did not read very closely, they feared that because the colonists would excedd them in population, with Americas natural resources the colonists would be too strong for the British to control. As to fired the first shot. No one knows who fired it. You should know this if you have read much American history.
I find it interesting that you seem to distinguish human dignity from political rights. These political rights were the result of applying the Biblical truth of man's dignity to the political sphere. It signifies nothing that the early Church did not mention political rights. They lived in a different cultural context. Principles discovered in one culture and time are often found to apply in different historical circumstances. Actually, Paul said in 1Cor. that if slaves could gain their freedom, then they were free to do so.
One more subject concerning your failure to read what I write carefully: I did not state that a Christian worldview was the sole reason for democratic trends. But a Christian view of Man had a strong impact on economic and political thinking that produced a more democratic society.
Tomorrow I will address the issue of school prayer.

David said...

"David, no, the Bible does not say anything about political rights, but the Bible does not specifically address many modern aspects of life directly."

Neither does the Constitution (address many modern aspects of life).

So, as with the Bible, we may go beyond the immediate, narrow words of the document, right? As with the Bible, we have to figure out what it might mean when we are looking at new situations or when considering modern circumstances. If we can do this with the Bible, we should be able to do this with the Constitution, too. Again, you want to be a very strict and narrow in your interpretation and application of the one document but not when it comes to the other document.


"To limit what Jesus said regarding rendering to Caesar what is due to Caesar only to taxes is faulty Biblical analysis."

Ok, let's expand what Jesus said with respect to "rendering unto Caesar. What do we get? If we do not limit this to the tax issue, then I think that it implies more obedience to the rulers over a wider range of issues, not less. On the question of taxes, Jesus says “obey Caesar”. So, apply the principle more broadly, and it says “obey Caesar, and not just with respect to taxes”. It certainly does not imply less obedience, nor does it offer any support to the notion that people are allowed to rebel against the rulers and/or disobey the rulers.

“One can take any scripture that may on the surface deal with a specific issue and apply it to other issues. I think you understand this."

Yes, I do. It’s what we do with the Constitution, too. Problem is, when we do this with the Constitution, you seem to have a big problem with it.

David said...

"The religious leadership had authority under the Roman empire to administer to stone who they considered to be blasphemers."

So, were the early Christians then permitted to rebel and replace the religious leadership? Did God say that they a right to express their beliefs without fear of persecution? Had they attempted to rebel or replace the leadership, would this have been in violation of the command to submit to and honor those who ruled over them?


“Yes, governing authorities tenure is determined by God, but when God chooses to end an authorities tenure, His uses human agency to accomplish His purposes. This can be demonstrated all throughout scripture and subsequent human history.”

Really? And how exactly can you tell the difference between cases where God used human agents to replace ruler from cases where humans failed to obey the commands of God and replaced the rulers by sinful rebellion?

"What I wrote was that the colonists saw the trend of where British colonial measures and acted to prevent themselves from being reduced to the poverty and subjegation the Irish had to endure."

And again, is this consistent with God’s command to render, submit and honor?

“It signifies nothing that the early Church did not mention political rights. They lived in a different cultural context. Principles discovered in one culture and time are often found to apply in different historical circumstances.”

It would seem to me that if you’re going to make the argument that the “Christian view” is the key to political rights, the absence of any mention of this principle for 1500 years is indeed significant. That’s a very long time between alleged discovery and application. A very long time. But if you wish to push the point, I would say that likewise, it signifies nothing that the Constitution does not specifically contain the phrase “separation of church and state”. We can derive this principle from the First Amendment even though it’s not explicitly stated, just as you derive political rights from your claims about biblical support for “dignity”. Fair is fair, right?

“Actually, Paul said in 1Cor. that if slaves could gain their freedom, then they were free to do so.”

Yes, as I said, freedom is nice, but there is no right to freedom expressed in the NT. Freedom can only be gained by permission of the owner of the slave and/or by payment to the owner. The slave cannot simply declare himself to be free because he has biblical dignity.

Render, submit, honor. Are these commands from God or not?

David said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr. Guthrie said...

Yes David, as I wrote earlier, there are aspects of modern life the Bible does not directly address. The same could be said of the Constitution. For instance, when the Constitution was written, the modern methods of communication and electronic eavesdropping did not exist. Yet protections written in the Bill of Rights still form the basis of how citizens are protected from unwarranted government intrusion into our lives. The principles that undergird the Bill of Rights are able to adapt to changing historical circumstances. Lets take the 1st Amendment prohibition against Congress passing laws establishing religion or prohibiting the free exercise of religion. In the context of the time, most people read this to mean that no one Christian denomination may be favored by the state. It was the intent of the Framers (if one has read American history, one will know this) that this provision was also for the protection of other religions being forced to become Christians. But primarily, this was for the protection of Christian denominations. This same mindset was expressed by Jefferson in his letter to the Danbury Baptists in which he used the phrase "seperation of church and state." Today, in a pluralistic setting, the first amendment still prohibits the favoring of one Christian denomination by the state as well as prohibiting the state from favoring one religion over another in anything related to government services and functions. The principle in the original document is able to be applied to changing historical circumstances. The modern doctrine of seperation of church and state is a different category. The proponents of this doctrine are attempting to regulate religion into the realm of private life, believing that religion has no place in the public sphere. It is not a case of applying already existing principles to modern life, but a case of utilizing a false history of a phrase not in the Constitution to convince people the Constitution says something it in fact does not. It is not a case of "narrow words" unable to be applied to modern life, but it is the case that some are twisting words to mean what they want it to mean.
As for the issue of rebelling against the state, I told you that I would not continue that aspect of the discussion. I have made my point and I know you understand what I am saying. You simply don't like the answer. As for knowing when a tyrant was removed by God's choice, the ability to discern such a thing does not negate the truth of the statement. God can do a number of things that people will not recognize as done by God. Such was the case all throughout scripture.

Mr. Guthrie said...

David, Another case of not reading my comments thoroughly concerns the dignity of the individual. I did not write that the Church discovered modern political rights prior to the modern era. I wrote that the early Church discovered the dignity of the individual through the realization that Man is created in God's image. While early Christians did not speak of the freedoms we now enjoy, they understood that men and women were to be treated with dignity and what ever society they lived in, they influenced society to become more humane. One would know this if one would read secular histories of the era. If one had any knowledge of Church history, one would know that the vast amount of Christ followers in the ancient world were of the poorest of the poor. If the gospel or the church did not give dignity to their lives as well as influence society to treat them in accordance with this dignity, then such would not have been the case. Unless you want to contend that the poor of this era were too stupid to know any better. It took many centuries for the Church to apply the dignity of man to changing historical circumstances which resulted in the development of the political, economic and religious freedoms that developed from the Reformation onward. One can learn this from reading secular histories. In the case of Roman slavery, Christian influence upon society led to the institution dying out after one or two centuries.

Mr. Guthrie said...

David, as for the case you brought up concerning prayer in school, I am in favor of children having the freedom to pray to the God they worship during the day. No one should be mandated to pray to Allah or to Christ in violation of their conscience. Children can pray to the God they worship while someone recites a generic prayer or during a moment of silence. Or they can choose not to pray at all. Unfortunately even that is too much for the advocates of seperation of church and state who have sued to end those practices as well.

David said...

"As for the issue of rebelling against the state, I told you that I would not continue that aspect of the discussion. I have made my point and I know you understand what I am saying. You simply don't like the answer."

It's not a question of not liking the answer. It's a question of render, submit, honor, and maybe obey, too. The actions of the American rebels were not consistent with these commands from God, and you've failed to demonstrate otherwise. Hey, I'm just reading the Bible as it's written.

"I am in favor of children having the freedom to pray to the God they worship during the day."

And no one is stopping them from doing this.

"No one should be mandated to pray to Allah or to Christ in violation of their conscience."

Wait a minute. Where is it written in the Constiution that we are protected from the attempts of others to "violate our consciences"? Where is it written that the state cannot take actions that violate our consciences? I think that you're making up things that aren't in the Constitution.

You know, a Muslim cleric leading a prayer to Allah at the start of the public school day is merely exercising his right to express and promote his religion in the public sphere. I thought that you were in favor of this. Are you trying to regulate religion into the realm of private life?

"Children can pray to the God they worship while someone recites a generic prayer."

What's a "generic prayer"? Is this a prayer to one god or to many gods? What possible value could it have? Aren't Christians always supposed to pray to Christ? If the person leading the prayer is a Christian, then that person is sinning by not praying to Christ.

"Or they can choose not to pray at all."

Why should they have to make this choice?

Mr. Guthrie said...

David, you have had all day to come up with a reply and in the end all you can do is play word games.
Where does the Constitution say our consciences cannot be coerced. Its in the text of the 1st Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishing of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." Is the word "conscience" in that statement. No. But the plain meaning of the text implies a freedom of conscience in religious matters. The historical background of the framing of the amendment attests to this. All 13 states debated the issue in some manner and the debates were published in the newspapers of the day which were avidly read as historians attest. The Federalist Papers argue against letting factions, religious and otherwise, gain power over the rest of the citizenry. The history of Christian denominations attempting to subjegate other denominations was personal history for many of the former colonists. They understood the establishment clause to refer to religious conscience. To state that there is nothing in the text of the 1st Amendment preventing the coercion of religious belief is as intellectually dishonest as the attempts of those judges who try to twist Jefferson's phrase which is not in the Constitution to mean the modern doctrine of seperation of Church and state is found in the 1st Amendment.

Mr. Guthrie said...

David, your remarks to me and those made previously to Brennon try to make the point that people's rights concerning their religious beliefs are not being threatened by the doctrine of seperation of church and state. Yes, there are laws on the books protecting students rights to pray and assemble for religious purposes, yet these laws had to be validated by courts after school districts tried to prohibit religious activity protected by the law. Such has been the case for the right of students to meet after school on school property to study the Bible. This is recent history; you should be aware of it. Moments of silence in the classroom where students could pray to the God they worshipped, or not pray at all, have been challenged by the ACLU and struck down by activist judges in several states, such as Alabama and Illinois, not just because it was feared one religion was being promoted over another, but that religion itself was being promoted. Just another example of proponents of sepration of church and state trying to drive religion from the public square. Here are some recent cases highlighted by the Allience Defense Fund: A straight-A student at Tomah High School in Wisconsin drew a picture in art class containing a cross and Scripture reference. His teacher removed the drawing from the classroom display and gave him a zero for the assignment, a formal reprimand, and two days of detention. Why? Because his art work depicted religious beliefs, which violated the school’s unconstitutional policy.When members of a Christian club at an Arizona high school requested to share information during morning announcements – like any other student club – about their weekly prayer meetings, the assistant principal said no and promptly tore up the request. Why? Because the announcement contained the word “prayer.”A high school student in Illinois was ordered to remove her T-shirt that said “Be Happy, Not Gay,” which she wore in response to the shirts worn by some of her classmates promoting homosexual behavior on the nationwide "Day of Silence." Why? Because her t-shirt was found to be “offensive.” Public schools are not the only educational institutions where religious conscience is threatened. In Michigan and in Georgia, students seeking degrees in counseling were told that if they did not change their beliefs concerning same-sex relationships and undergo sensitivity training and publically renounce their former beliefs, they would not be allowed to graduate. Just the doctrine of seperation of church and state at work.

Mr. Guthrie said...

I wanted to state that the material concerning the Alliance Defense Fund was cut and pasted directly from the ADF website. I was concerned that my comments would be too long to be posted, so I am acknowledging the source in a seperate post. Here are links to the cases of the university students in Michigan and Georgia:http://www.alliancedefensefund.org/Home/ADFContent?cid=5351 and http://www.alliancedefensefund.org/Home/ADFContent?cid=5346

David said...

"Where does the Constitution say our consciences cannot be coerced. Its in the text of the 1st Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishing of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." Is the word "conscience" in that statement. No. But the plain meaning of the text implies a freedom of conscience in religious matters.

Ah, so now it’s ok to read things into the Constitution when those things are not expressly or explicitly present in writing. We might, for example, look at what folks said at the time about what the First Amendment meant to them. Ok with me, but you might not want to open that door if your is to conclude that the First Amendment does not imply seperation of church and state.

And how, exactly, do we know when our consciences are being “coerced”? What are the criteria? What is meant by this phrase? How is this constituional right applied?

If a Muslim cleric leading a public school prayer to Allah is coercion, then why isn’t a generic prayer also coercion? Seems to me that this is an all or nothing proposition. If one type of prayer is coercion, then all types of prayer are coercion, because even a generic prayer would be coercion of conscience to someone who doesn’t believe in any of the generic gods. So, do you want protection against coercion or not?


“To state that there is nothing in the text of the 1st Amendment preventing the coercion of religious belief is as intellectually dishonest as the attempts of those judges who try to twist Jefferson's phrase which is not in the Constitution to mean the modern doctrine of seperation of Church and state is found in the 1st Amendment.”

You really seem to want to have this both ways. At times, you want to add words that aren’t there. But at other times, when others do the same thing, you describe this as twisted and dishonest. Make up your mind.

“Such has been the case for the right of students to meet after school on school property to study the Bible.”

I assume that you are ok with students meeting after school to study the Koran. Just want to check to be sure that I understand you.

David said...

“This is recent history; you should be aware of it. Moments of silence in the classroom where students could pray to the God they worshipped, or not pray at all, have been challenged by the ACLU and struck down by activist judges in religion was being promoted over another, but that religion itself was being promoted.”

Isn’t the promotion of religion “coercive”? Again, why should anyone have to make a choice in a public school about what to do in a moment of silence? What on earth is the point or value of a moment of silence, other than promotion of religious belief.

Now, you’ve said that we are protected from “coercion of conscience”. You’ve said that there is no doubt that this is in the Constitution. That means that we’re protected from any effort by anyone to promote belief in a god or gods. The ACLU and the “activist judges” are merely applying the principle that you say is in the Constitution. You want to have your cake and eat it, too. You want to be protected from the Muslim cleric on the grounds of “coercion of conscience”, but you still want the right to coerce yourself.

“Yes, there are laws on the books protecting students rights to pray and assemble for religious purposes, yet these laws had to be validated by courts after school districts tried to prohibit religious activity protected by the law.”

So, in the end, the laws were validated, right? Students can pray in school, right? So, what’s the problem?

There’s nothing new here. U.S. legal history is filled with cases in which constitutionality of this, that and the other thing had to be tried, tested and defined in courts and by courts as a result of one challenge or another. This has happened time and again with most parts, if not all parts, of the Constitution. This is just how things work. And this is what is happening in all of the examples that you gave about art classes and tee shirts. We’re constantly trying to figure out what the Constitution means and what the Constitution protects, and that includes the First Amendment. So that means that you’re going to get cases such as you describe. And we’re only talking about a small handful of cases here.

Do these cases even really demonstrate the specific doctrine of separation of church and state at work? How so? Maybe they just mostly demonstrate a school’s desire to keep the peace.

(I would also add that it’s in court that we get to hear both sides, as opposed to just getting one side of the story at places like the ADF website.)

Mr. Guthrie said...

David, I am not even reading your comments anymore. You play word games because you have nothing left to argue. I have made all the points I wanted to make. Any objective person reading them will understand my case. Though they may not agree with everything I wrote, they will see that in playing your word games you are not interested in true intellectual exchange. Thanks Brennon for allowing me to comment so extensively on this issue.

David said...

"You play word games because you have nothing left to argue."

I play word games? You're the one who always wants to have it both ways.

You deny "separation of church and state", and then you offer up something about "coercion of conscience", which, when applied, produces the same result with respect to school prayer as a separation of church and state.

If my right to be free from coercion of conscience is the justification for denying the Muslim cleric the opportunity to lead a prayer in school, then by this same justification, we can deny anyone the opportunity to lead any prayer in school. If I'm legally and constitutionally protected from "coercion of conscience", then the state cannot support a generic prayer at the start of the school day, because this is violation of my right to be free from any "coercion of conscience". Prayer is prayer. It's either all in or all out. Take your pick.

thechemistscorner said...

What on earth is the point or value of a moment of silence, other than promotion of religious belief.

I think anyone with children should immediately recognize the value of a moment of silence, regardless if it is for prayer or not. Sitting quietly by oneself is something learned.

Mr. Guthrie,

Thank you for the well-reasoned comments. I enjoyed them very much.

David said...

Chemist,

Where in the Constitution do we find the phrase "coercion of conscience"?

Can you explain the following?

If my right to be free from coercion of conscience is the justification for denying the Muslim cleric the opportunity to lead a prayer in school, then how can any student be forced to listen to a "generic prayer"? If I'm legally and constitutionally protected from "coercion of conscience", then the state cannot support a generic prayer at the start of the school day, because this is violation of my right to be free from any "coercion of conscience", right? Prayer is prayer.

bossmanham said...

Mr. Guthrie,

Great posts. I appreciate your input. Sorry I haven't been on much lately.

David said...

Ah, Bossman, now that you are here, perhaps you can explain, define and apply Mr. Gutherie's concept of coercion of conscience, especially with respect to prayer in school.

Perhaps you can also explain how action of the American rebels is consisent with God's command to render, submit, honor and obey.

thechemistscorner said...

David,

I am not planning to enter into this conversation with you. You asked for how a moment of silence could be meaningful for someone other than prayer. I gave you one. That's the end of my contribution.

David said...

Chemist,

Upon further reflection, I would agree that a little quiet time can have some general value, and I was wrong to say that it had no value at all Personally, I miss nap time.

However, a moment of silence is not something that is being promoted for its general and non-specific value. It's really just an end run around restrictions on school prayer. And legally speaking, intent matters (see Kitzmiller v. Dover).

bossmanham said...

David,

Ah, Bossman, now that you are here, perhaps you can explain, define and apply Mr. Gutherie's concept of coercion of conscience, especially with respect to prayer in school.

If you don't want to pray, don't do it. If a school wants to lead in prayer and students don't like it, they don't have to pray. There's no law protecting people from feeling uncomfortable, otherwise we need to outlaw people using God's name in vain.

Perhaps you can also explain how action of the American rebels is consisent with God's command to render, submit, honor and obey.

There's no where when the Bible says to submit to either ungodly or unreasonable commands. It's a general principle to obey the authorities in command, but if they order things either against God or conscience, then it is the Chrsitian's prerogative to resist. Perhaps you haven't heard that Christians were constantly being killed through the first few centuries for refusing to do things that the state commanded, like calling Ceaser lord or not preaching the gospel.

That's pretty much what he said, and all I'll say, since I've gone over this ad nauseam in other posts.

David said...

"If you don't want to pray, don't do it. If a school wants to lead in prayer and students don't like it, they don't have to pray. There's no law protecting people from feeling uncomfortable, otherwise we need to outlaw people using God's name in vain."

Good. Then you're cool with the Muslim cleric leading prayers to Allah. Clear enough.

"Perhaps you haven't heard that Christians were constantly being killed through the first few centuries for refusing to do things that the state commanded, like calling Ceaser lord or not preaching the gospel."

But they did NOT rebel and violently replace those who ruled over them. In fact, in the end, they DID submit to the state.

And could you please list the "ungodly commands of King George? How about a defition of "unreasonable command"? How do you know, specifically and exactly, when one is no longer bound by the explict commands to render, submit and honor because the ruler has issued an "unreasonable command"?

You see, the problem is the we have explict statements that rulers are place over us by the authority of God, and we have explict commands to render, submit and honor (and probably obey, too). This is not a case of something that isn't mentioned in the NT, and we're filling in the blanks. These are items that explictly included in the NT. So, now the burden is on the rebel to demonstate when and why these explict statments no longer apply. And I don't think the American rebels come anywhere close to meeting that burden. Colonial American and first and second century Rome are not the same places, and as bad as Rome was, I would add that the first and second century Christians did NOT rebel.

bossmanham said...

Good. Then you're cool with the Muslim cleric leading prayers to Allah. Clear enough.

David, you're a frustratingly dishonest person, since we've already had this discussion
.


But they did NOT rebel and violently replace those who ruled over them. In fact, in the end, they DID submit to the state.

And? The principle doesn't change. Just because the early Christians lacked the ability doesn't mean anything.

And could you please list the "ungodly commands of King George?

You might check here. You're looking pretty ignorant of American history here.

You see, the problem is the we have explict [sic] statements that rulers are place over us by the authority of God, and we have explict [sic] commands to render, submit and honor (and probably obey, too)

And we have explicit cases in scripture where it is appropriate to resist. Wow, it's almost like a general guideline is being set up.

I would add that the first and second century Christians did NOT rebel

Um, what? Yes they did. They didn't rebel violently, but so what? They rebelled against certain laws that violated God and conscience and it got them killed. Violent revolutions are very rarely the answer.

So you see, the problem is you don't have a leg to stand on argument wise.

David said...

"David, you're a frustratingly dishonest person, since we've already had this discussion."

You’re very fast to accuse me of dishonesty. There is no dishonesty here. None. I get into lots of discussions in lots of places. I don’t remember the whens, wheres and whats of all of these discussions. I really and truly did not remember this specific previous encounter with you. Your charges are totally ungrounded, and frankly, I’m tired of the false accusations. Very Christian of you.

Still, in now reading through the old comments, I’m not sure that I ever received a clear yes or no answer to the question. That’s all I want. A yes or no answer. So, I can assume that you're ok with mullahs, witches and devil worships leading prayers, yes? Over the loudspeaker. In Satan we trust. Yes or no.


“And? The principle doesn't change. Just because the early Christians lacked the ability doesn't mean anything.”

So, if the early Christians had risen up and attacked the Roman state, that would not have been in violation of the command to render, submit and honor? Really? ‘Cause render, submit and honor seem pretty clear to me. Is there any doubt that the NT says that the Caesars were appointed by God? Any at all? Weren’t the early Christians supposed to wait until Jesus returned before starting any tussles with the rulers appointed by God? Has this changed?

“You might check here. You're looking pretty ignorant of American history here.”

First, the D of I is part propaganda. Second, most of what Jefferson is talking about here occurred AFTER the rebellion began. AFTER. They are a RESULT of a king asserting the authority that was given to him by God. Third, these are examples of what the king did and NOT examples of the king asking the Americans to commit ungodly acts. Remember, your argument is that one can rebel if the ruler asks you to do ungodly things.

What you need some cases where the king told the colonists to do something “ungodly”. Then you can talk about my ignorance of American history.

“And we have explicit cases in scripture where it is appropriate to resist. Wow, it's almost like a general guideline is being set up.”

Specific examples? Examples from the NT (remember, after Jesus, we operate by different rules under the New Convenent)? So, what are these general guidelines? What are the criteria that determine when one can overthrow rulers? Where are the guidelines that say if the ruler does X, then render, submit and honor is null and void? How do you know when it’s righteous to rebel and when it is sinful? You say we have guidelines, so I'm sure you can be specific here.

David said...

>I would add that the first and second century Christians did NOT rebel

“Um, what? Yes they did. They didn't rebel violently, but so what? They rebelled against certain laws that violated God and conscience and it got them killed.”

RIGHT! They did not rebel violently! They did NOT overthrow the ruler. They did NOT claim to have a long list of political rights. They did NOT do as the American rebels did under conditions that were far less harsh. They DID submit to the punishments mandated by their actions, rendering unto Caesar and submitting to the ruler. This is quite different from the behavior of the Americans.

The lesson of the NT is to be true to your conscience BUT then you must accept what the rulers say. You don’t act against your conscience BUT you don’t rebel either. You don’t do ungodly things, BUT as much as possible, you still render, submit and honor the rulers placed over you by God. The command is clear. Render, submit and honor. Essentially, what the NT describes is non-violent civil disobedience. There is no hint here that violent revolution is anything other than a violation of God’s clear commands.

“Violent revolutions are very rarely the answer.”

RIGHT! So, why is the violent American rebellion NOT a massively sinful act? Again, the Americans had far more rights than the vast majority of other people at the time. How do you justify ignoring the commands to render, submit and honor (and maybe obey)?


“So you see, the problem is you don't have a leg to stand on argument wise.”

No, the problem is that you want to justify something that the NT says is not justified.

Here’s your problem. The NT was formulated by people who were trying very hard to avoid trouble with the Romans. Ultimately, trouble came anyway, but that doesn’t change the fact that the early Christians were trying to show the Romans that they were harmless. They were not like those troublesome Jews. So, the NT theology expresses points of view that are designed to say to the Romans that the Christians will render, submit, honor and obey. Yes, eventually there will be conflict, because the Romans will require everyone to recognize things like the divinity of the Caesars. But in the meantime, the Christians are going to do what they can to avoid the wrath of Rome. Hence, render, submit and honor.

Problem is, now you’re stuck with of this submission stuff in your sacred text. And centuries later, folks are not going to want to render, submit and honor. So, they’re going to have to ignore this bit of the NT. Not a problem. All Christians ignore the parts of the Bible they don’t like.

bossmanham said...

David, you're like a broken record my man. We answer your questions and you ask it over and over again. I think enough is enough. Come back when an issue we haven't covered ad nauseam is up for discussion.

David said...

"We answer your questions and you ask it over and over again."

Actually, there's just one question that I'd like an answer to, and you haven't given a straight answer yet. I ask again and again, because your answer is not clear. I can make assumptions about your answer, but that would be wrong. Do you want me to assume what you would say? I'm simply trying hard to avoid misunderstandings.

The question is...are you're ok with mullahs, witches and devil worshipers leading prayers? Over the loudspeaker. In Satan we trust. Is this protected by the Constitution? Yes or no.

From what you've said, I believe that you would answer "yes", but I could be wrong. A clear answer is all that is needed to prevent broken records and nausea.

midasvuik said...

Brennon,

Do you have an email address? I would like to contact you about something. Thanks.

Blessings,
Midas

bossmanham said...

Yeah, it's up on my profile now. Just my username at yahoo.com.

pboyfloyd said...

Of course they meant that Christians have the freedom and the right to force their religion on everyone else.

Sometimes you have to tell children what to do, for their own good, right?

Like not 'telling' anyone about the abuse.

bossmanham said...

Right, you know, cause that's always what we're doing and precisely what I'm advocating here.

bossmanham said...

David,

I'm not sure you'll see this, but I hope you do. I've been thinking about it and you're right, I shouldn't have said that you were being dishonest. I apologize and hope to move beyond it.