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The maverick rabbi on what happens when materialist atheists run for office

Readers may recall Moshe Averick, the maverick rabbi that Jerry “Why Evolution Is True” Coyne won’t have lunch with . Recently, reflecting on recent political conflicts, he had this to say in “The Mirage of ‘Scientific’ Atheism”(Algemeiner Daily , July 16, 2012):

The particulars of these stories or the principles of constitutional law that are involved in the legal challenges are beside the point. What is clear is that we are surrounded on all sides by a profound ideological conflict; in our courtrooms, in our classrooms, and among leading intellectuals. At stake are the hearts and minds of the American people and with them the soul of our nation. There is an enormous spiritual gulf between a nation that views human life as reflecting a transcendent, sacred reality, that cherishes the concept that all men are created equal and have been endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights and one that believes that homo sapiens are essentially highly developed bacteria or chimpanzees that evolved through an unguided, purposeless process. It is one or the other; there is no middle ground here.

The whole is well worth your time.

One thing the News desk here has noticed is a relationship between the growth of anti-civil liberties politics and new atheist secularism. Such a relationship would make no obvious sense except that the Darwinism that underlies most new atheism holds that ethics is an illusion and there is no free will. In that atmosphere, authoritarianism becomes much more tempting for government. It feels wrong not to force the highly developed bacteria in the “right” direction. And to punish those who turn and say: Get lost, creepy bureaucrat, don’t you gotta life somewhere?

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25 Responses to The maverick rabbi on what happens when materialist atheists run for office

  1. I hesitate to challenge the rebbe’s opinions (mainly because the comments appear to be directed towards citizens of the USA, a group to which I do not belong). But a couple of obvious things should be pointed out.

    1. ” a nation that views human life as . . .”

    Nations are not capable of viewing anything. A nation is an abstraction without sensory apparatus. Does the rebbe mean “all of us”, “most of us”, “some of us”, “the current political majority”, “the right-thinking part of us”, “a few of us”, “me and and some people who agree with me”, “me in my lonely room”? What? The rebbe does not say.

    But on the basis of an undefined category, the rebbe is apparently happy to pile up contingencies . . .

    2. “. . . as reflecting a transcendent, sacred reality, that cherishes the concept that all men are created equal and have been endowed by their Creator . . .”

    Hang about. That sounds like a palimpsest of the USA’s Declaration of Independence (“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”)

    Maybe I am a bit dim, but I don’t see a “transcendent, sacred reality” in the original. The authors certainly didn’t claim that the USA’s constitution was transcendent (well perhaps they did, but it took another century before it got transcendented outside of the continental land mass). But sacred? Sacred by whom, to whom, for whom? Certainly not any church that existed at the time.

    And by the way, it should not need pointing out that the authors of the US constitution were by no means unanimous on the meaning of “equal” when applied to men. But if the rebbe is glossing the constitution, that shouldn’t be more of a problem now than it was for the father of Sally Hemmings’ child.

    3. “. . . and one that believes that homo sapiens are essentially highly developed bacteria or chimpanzees that evolved through an unguided, purposeless process.”

    Whoa! Who believes that? Not any evolutionary biologist about whom I know. The rebbe is waving a strawman piled on top of a false dichotomy.

    It really is pretty simple. We humans are not entirely slaves to our genes. Our lineage has developed the ability to reason and accumulate cultural knowledge and pass that knowledge on through our generations to overcome whatever genetic behavioural limitations we have inherited from our ancestors.

    The only mistake we can make is to fill a god-shaped hole in our minds with a god.

  2. 2

    Timothya,
    “All men are CREATED equal, they have been endowed by their CREATOR with unalienable rights.”

    If that is not transcendent, I don’t know what is.

    “and one that believes that homo sapiens are essentially highly developed bacteria or chimpanzees that evolved through an unguided, purposeless process.”

    George Gaylord Simpson: “Man is the result of a purposeless and materialistic process that did not have a human in mind. He was not planned. He is a state of matter, a form of life, a sort of animal, and a species in the order of primates, akin nearly or remotely, to all life, and indeed, to all that is material.”

    Simpson’s statement in one form or another has been stated endlessly not by some evolutionary biologists, but by every single one of them. In the Darwinian view what else could we possibly be?

    A “nation” is an entity,a reality, as in “United Nations”
    Life in the United States is distinctly different than life was in the Soviet Union,Red China, Imperial Japan, or Nazi Germany. This is a reflection of differing views of reality. While it may be true that an absolutely monolithic world view among people of any given nation is not possible, to say that nations do not have their own way of conceptualizing reality is simply not true.

    If the concept of “all men are created equal, etc.” is removed from the American consciousness, America as we know it will be irrevocably transformed.

  3. timothya: The only mistake we can make is to fill a god-shaped hole in our minds with a god.

    You are entirely free to fill it with poop, as you obviously have.

  4. UD News is staffed entirely by Canadians, for national security reasons ;) but we would agree with Rabbi Averick about the outcome of Darwinian morality in the United States.

    Once, years ago, Denyse O’Leary had to explain to a middle Eastern Muslim woman in Toronto why the Canadian constitution stated that Canada is founded on the principles of the supremacy of God and the rule of law.

    O’Leary explained that the rule of law doesn’t mean anything apart from the supremacy of God. (God as understood in the Jewish and Christian tradition, the father of the fatherless, the husband of the widow, the protector of the unjustly accused, the help of the penitent sinner. The One to whom every just judge should cling, and of whom every unjust judge should rightly live in terror. Who can neither deceive nor be deceived.)

    It is a backstop against law being whatever a bunch of guys want.

    (The woman had somehow got it into her head that a completely secular system would work. But that has been tried and it ended with millions of deaths instead of thousands. )

  5. ““All men are CREATED equal, they have been endowed by their CREATOR with unalienable rights.”

    If that is not transcendent, I don’t know what is.”

    The founders of the US constitution saw no contradiction in declaring inalienable rights at the same time as denying the same rights to a large proportion of the population. Gobsmackingly transcendent.

    If the wording had read “all people are equal and we declare that they have equal rights . . .” the history of the country would have been different, but neither irrevocably nor fundamentally so. My problem with the use of a word like “nation” is that it can mean whatever you want it to mean; it is a coathanger for dubious generalisations, and explains nothing.

    I should have been more blunt about your characterisation of evolution. Humans are not essentially highly developed chimpanzees. If you indeed think this, I would recommend a remedial course in introductory biology.

    Oh, and thanks to Mike for the masterly false dichotomy.

  6. TA:

    Are you aware that in fact there was considerable controversy about the question, and that a compromise of the lesser of evils as understood was reluctantly struck?

    As an example, cf Jefferson’s — yes, Jefferson, he was a paradox, a hopelessly indebted slave master who hated but could not see a way out of slavery for himself, etc — draft for the US DOI, section against the slave trade (deleted because of objections from South Carolina and Georgia):

    he [the king of Britain] has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it’s most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. this piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.

    Such uneasy, messy compromises as mark all in the end successful reformations will always look an unmitigated evil to dismissive advocates of later generations, who do not have to deal with the realities of the time; and who can easily take them to dismiss those who faced the issues and balance of power of the time and took the half-loaf that was better than none.

    As a descendant of slaves, I think we should give due recognition to the willingness of the US founding fathers to lay out the plain principle that rebukes their failings and calls for the onward unfinished task to be taken up again.

    That effort that we find in the US DOI set the mark for those who would follow to reform, establishing the core principles of democratic self government by a free people. Yes, point out their feet of clay, but let us never allow that to dismiss or deride their legacy of the first steps to the reforms whose benefits we enjoy today.

    Don’t forget, too, the many years of unrelenting effort it took Wilberforce to get something so obviously wrong and indefensible as the slave trade abolished through the UK parliament in the teeth of the interests. Success was never guaranteed, especially at the start. What then was he to do, lead a futile and foolish rebellion, or remain in the Parliament and keep trying — for decades?

    At length, he did win the first phase of abolition, breaking the trade. Then it took another generation to abolish the system itself. FIFTY years of moral and ideological struggle.

    Unfortunately, in the US, even deeper intransigence led to bitter and bloody civil war with consequences not yet finished.

    [I wonder what posterity will say about the compromises struck with the popular, promoted and protected evils of our day such as the 50 - 55 million dead by abortion in the US and a far larger number around the world. As for the sick promotion of porn in the false name of freedom of expression etc, and more, much more . . . Where of course, much the same people as deride Jefferson et al, are to be found in the lists speaking against the genuine reformers of our day, too often in the most vituperative tones. I need not say much against those who would confuse liberty with licence and call for "reforms" that are not. Such are not even worthy to carry the sandals of a Jefferson, for all his flaws.]

    When, therefore, I see the sort of denigratory deconstruction, revisionism and dismissal just exemplified, I see not progress but superficiality.

    Let us do better than that.

    A lot better than that.

    KF

  7. F/N: References.

  8. Some quotes:

    _________

    >> George Washington: “there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it.”

    —Letter to Morris, April 12, 1786, in George Washington, A Collection, ed. W.B. Allen (Indianapolis: Liberty Classics, 1989), 319.

    John Adams: “Every measure of prudence, therefore, ought to be assumed for the eventual total extirpation of slavery from the United States…. I have, through my whole life, held the practice of slavery in …abhorrence.”

    —Letter to Evans, June 8, 1819, in Selected Writings of John and John Quincy Adams ed. Adrienne Koch et al. (New York: Knopf, 1946), 209-10.

    Benjamin Franklin: “Slavery is …an atrocious debasement of human nature.”

    —”An Address to the Public from the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery” (1789), Benjamin Franklin, Writings ed. J.A. Leo Lemay (New York: Library of America, 1987), 1154.

    Alexander Hamilton: “The laws of certain states …give an ownership in the service of negroes as personal property…. But being men, by the laws of God and nature, they were capable of acquiring liberty—and when the captor in war …thought fit to give them liberty, the gift was not only valid, but irrevocable.”

    —Philo Camillus no. 2 (1795), in Papers of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Harold C. Syrett (New York: Columbia University Press, 1961-), 19:101-2.

    James Madison: “We have seen the mere distinction of colour made in the most enlightened period of time, a ground of the most oppressive dominion ever exercised by man over man.”

    —Speech at Constitutional Convention, June 6, 1787, in Max Farrand, ed., Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1937), 1:135. >>
    _________

    Food for thought.

  9. John Jay, 1st Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court:

    ________

    >> [Jay, writing as president of the New York Society for the Manumission of Slaves, answers the British charge that Americans are inconsistent when they profess to believe in liberty while holding slaves.]

    That they who know the value of liberty, and are blessed with the enjoyment of it, ought not to subject others to slavery, is, like most other moral precepts, more generally admitted in theory than observed in practice. This will continue to be too much the case while men are impelled to action by their passions rather than their reason, and while they are more solicitous to acquire wealth than to do as they would be done by…. The United States are far from being irreproachable in this respect. It undoubtedly is very inconsistent with their declarations on the subject of human rights to permit a single slave to be found within their jurisdiction, and we confess the justice of your strictures on that head.

    Permit us, however, to observe, that although consequences ought not to deter us from doing what is right, yet that it is not easy to persuade men in general to act on that magnanimous and disinterested principle. It is well known that errors, either in opinion or practice, long entertained or indulged, are difficult to eradicate, and particularly so when they have become, as it were, incorporated in the civil institutions and domestic economy of a whole people.

    Prior to the great revolution, the great majority or rather the great body of our people had been so long accustomed to the practice and convenience of having slaves, that very few among them even doubted the propriety and rectitude of it. Some liberal and conscientious men had, indeed, by their conduct and writings, drawn the lawfulness of slavery into question, and they made converts to that opinion; but the number of those converts compared with the people at large was then very inconsiderable. Their doctrines prevailed by almost insensible degrees, and was like the little lump of leaven which was put into three measures of meal: even at this day, the whole mass is far from being leavened, though we have good reason to hope and to believe that if the natural operations of truth are constantly watched and assisted, but not forced and precipitated, that end we all aim at will finally be attained in this country.

    –> Sadly, he was wrong, it took rivers of blood

    The Convention which formed and recommended the new Constitution had an arduous task to perform, especially as local interests, and in some measure local prejudices, were to be accommodated. Several of the States conceived that restraints on slavery [that is, the abolition of the slave trade] might be too rapid to consist with their particular circumstances; and the importance of union rendered it necessary that their wishes on that head should, in some degree, be gratified.

    It gives us pleasure to inform you, that a disposition favourable to our views and wishes prevails more and more, and that it has already had an influence on our laws. When it is considered how many of the legislators in the different States are proprietors of slaves, and what opinions and prejudices they have imbibed on the subject from their infancy, a sudden and total stop to this species of oppression is not to be expected….

    [From Philip B. Kurland and Ralph Lerner, ed., The Founders’ Constitution (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 1:550.] >>
    ________

    Written while the battle raged as ideological conflict with moral overtones.

    And it is in that very respect for transcendent principle that the point is made.

    KF

  10. M62: Please, watch tone. At the very least, consider what you give an excuse to others to do. KF

  11. Mike,

    I couldn’t stop laughing when I read your response.

    Thanks. You made my day!

  12. timothya:

    “If the wording had read “all people are equal and we declare that they have equal rights . . .” the history of the country would have been different, but neither irrevocably nor fundamentally so.”

    That wording is unimaginable in the day and age we are talking about. To the educated people of that era, whose rational thought was trained to a high level by the study of the Greek and Roman classics and the great early modern philosophers, such an assertion would have been a groundless claim. They would have very logically asked: “How can we *know* that all people are equal?”

    There are no stable grounds for asserting such an equality, except religious ones. They don’t have to be Christian, but they have to be religious. “I happen to think that equality is nicer than inequality” is not an adequate basis for the abolition of slavery; what if most people in the society think that inequality is nicer than equality? What it took to abolish slavery was the firm belief that there was a law above all human laws, a law which no human law, not even a law passed by the majority, had any right to abrogate — in fact, a divine law.

    What you are trying to do is gut the Declaration of the moral motor that makes it work, because you don’t believe in, and don’t want to believe in, God. It’s your right to advocate non-belief in God — it’s a free country. (Though you have the right to express your disbelief, ironically, because your forebears *did* believe in God.) But your right to express disbelief in God doesn’t make your historical and political judgments logical. Take away the divine (or, if you prefer a broader term, “religious”) sanction for equality, and the only arguments left for equality are (a) utilitarian and (b) sentimental. But both of these are precarious grounds for protecting the rights of all citizens over the lifetime of a civilization. What is deemed “useful” can change, and people’s sentiments can change. And where will the slave’s “rights” be then?

    Disbelieve in God if you like, but be thankful that the founders of the USA disagreed with you. You enjoy the freedoms you have, precisely because they did disagree with you. And the black slaves were set free because their white masters ultimately decided that they were answerable to the Deity who had made both white men and black men, and the whole universe along with them.

    Another irony, of course, is that based on the principles used in recent Supreme Court rulings relating to religion and the state, it should be illegal to teach the Declaration of Independence in schools, since it makes reference to God and therefore does not treat atheists equally with theists. I’ll leave you to ponder the logical and legal paradoxes involved here.

  13. Timaeus:

    “What you are trying to do is gut the Declaration of the moral motor that makes it work, because you don’t believe in, and don’t want to believe in, God. It’s your right to advocate non-belief in God — it’s a free country.”

    Sigh. I must be too obtuse in my expression for my own good.

    I commented on the original post because it claimed to notice “a relationship between the growth of anti-civil liberties politics and new atheist secularism”. And then quoted the rebbe, who contraposed an undefined national spirituality to a ludicrous misstatement of evolutionary biology.

    My purpose was to point out that the US Declaration of Independence, with its fine statement of religious motivation, was framed by the same group of men who were simultaneously conniving at the greatest systemic denial of civil liberties in US history. Let’s not extend the argument by noticing that they failed to include women in the religiously inspired civil liberty of the franchise.

    No sensible person denies the importance of religious belief in the fight against slavery. However, I am sure you will have noticed that the slaveholders used exactly the same creed to justify their traffic in human bodies.

    Then there is this: “And the black slaves were set free because their white masters ultimately decided that they were answerable to the Deity who had made both white men and black men, and the whole universe along with them.” And here was me thinking that the slaveholding class had to be beaten into submission through five years of civil war (fought in part by 180,000 black soldiers).

    And a small aside. I am not a citizen of the United States, hence the US constitution has little relevance to my legal freedoms. The constitution of my country makes no reference to gods or religion as far as I can find, except in an appendix where the legal forms of an oath and an affirmation are defined. It is a remarkably prosaic document, being oddly concerned with postage stamps and how much to pay the head of state. Even so, my country’s citizens are not noticeably more or less moral than those of the USA, possibly excepting matters of horse racing (we will never forgive you for poisoning Phar Lap).

  14. “I am not a citizen of the United States” – timothya

    That’s o.k. I’m not either.

    And neither is Timaeus, afaik, though he pretends to defend the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

    You’re an Australian (or New Zealander) – a horse’s name is too easy to track. I’m a Canadian. And so, according to News above, is the entire staff of UD News.

    Will Timaeus admit his nationality or continue to hide in obscurity?

    The notion that “the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada” is no problem for the Prime Minister to face. But for Timaeus, the focus is instead on “it’s a free country,” meaning the USA’s ‘intelligently designed’ (?) Declaration of Independence.

  15. For whatever it may be worth, Quebec does have certain rights within the Canadian constitution, consistent with its status as a French-speaking nation within Canada. But this has not posed any problem in recent memory.

    It is true that both Gregory and UD News staff and other people you might not suspect, that you hear from around here, are Canadians.

    We have infiltrated the system. We are planning to reform it, actually, by planting maple trees everywhere, and putting Elizabeth II’s face on all sound currencies (and no unsound ones, thus creating a sound banking system) – and exporting Canada geese as soon as possible from their current urban environments in southern Ontario to any place that does not rise up in arms at news of their arrival. ;)

  16. Onlookers:

    I give up on drawing TA’s attention to what he is deriding, dismissing and brushing aside. However, I am sure that onlookers will be able to calibrate his remarks in light of what he is not addressing.

    KF

  17. timothya:

    Thanks for clarifying.

    Yes, I agree that it took a war for the principle of universal human rights to win out in the USA. I don’t deny that there was a long gap in time between the original promise and the delivery. But the point is that there were those who had the resolve — even if that meant a war between the states — to insist that certain moral principles were beyond political negotiation. I think that such resolve is not conceivable without what I would call a deeply religious affirmation, an ontological affirmation about the dignity of man. And I think that ontological affirmation came from Christianity.

    As for the “creed” that the slaveholders appealed to — it wasn’t the Christian creed, Nicene or otherwise. It was exegetical nonsense such as “Negroes can be rightfully enslaved because they are under the curse of Ham.” So a system which spit in the very face of the teachings of Christ was justified by stupid fundamentalist proof-texting from Genesis. Against this, the moral clarity of Lincoln stands out. Lincoln was less “Biblical” in the form of his argument – but he was more Christian in his affirmations. Not everyone who quotes the Bible to defend a policy has any deep understanding of what Christianity is about.

    As for Gregory’s irrelevant and ad hominem remark, I was not “pretending” to defend the principles of the opening words of the Declaration; I think they are very high principles which all theists should affirm. But perhaps, given his frequent sideways slams at “US Americans,” Gregory does not find those principles to be so high. And yes, the US Constitution was intelligently designed, by men deeply trained in philosophy and classical literature.

  18. Timaeus said: “Against this, the moral clarity of Lincoln stands out. Lincoln was less “Biblical” in the form of his argument – but he was more Christian in his affirmations. Not everyone who quotes the Bible to defend a policy has any deep understanding of what Christianity is about.”

    I do not seek the last word on this subject. However, it is pretty clear that Lincoln was one of the least “Christian” of US presidents. Clearly he was increasingly concerned with finding a godly mandate for his government throughout the civil war, but there is little evidence that he found it in any specifically Christian doctrine.

  19. Onlookers,

    TA clearly does not recognise just how profoundly influenced Lincoln was by a deeply — though obviously imperfectly –Christian milieu, regardless of personal convictions on doctrinal points in say the Nicene creed.

    Let us point to the 2nd inaugural address:

    On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came. 2

    One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” 3

    With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

    Let us see if, through the fog of secularist revisionism, we can still see clearly enough to recognise the key Biblical and Christian ethics themes and influences at obviously heart-felt work.

    KF

  20. timothya:

    I was not speaking of Christianity in a “by-the-book” sense. I am aware that Lincoln was not much oriented to formal religious doctrine. I am saying that his revulsion at the idea of slavery came from the fact that he was steeped in centuries of culture permeated by Christian notions and Christian feelings. Someone who instinctively treats the underdog and the outcaste as equal understands something of the essence of Christianity, no matter how little doctrine he formally asserts; and someone who confidently swears intellectual adherence to the last syllable of the Westminster Confession, or who has the King James Bible memorized, understands nothing of Christianity if he has no such feelings in his breast. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”

  21. Kairosfocus posted part of a Lincoln’s second inaugural and then he has this to say: “Let us see if, through the fog of secularist revisionism, we can still see clearly enough to recognise the key Biblical and Christian ethics themes and influences at obviously heart-felt work”.

    Let us see clearly indeed.

    In Kairosfocus’ quote, Lincoln says nothing about a specifically Christian doctrine. I could just as easily wave my arms and say “through the fog of Kairosfocus’s revisionist hagiography, we can see that Lincoln had little time for the narrow Christian sectarianism of his period.” (An opinion which is actually supported by historical references from the time, by the way)

    If my armwaving is correct, then perhaps I am truly honouring his greatness.

  22. Onlookers:

    It is clear that TA does not understand that the point of the 2nd Inaugural was to show the biblical and Christian milieu that shaped Lincoln’s ethics and principles. It is obvious that an exposition of the Nicene creed was not relevant, or a debate over points in it (which I pointed to).

    However, it is still the case that TA is unable or unwilling to acknowledge the Biblical-ethical context in which he spoke. But, as it turns out there actually IS a specifically Christian doctrine alluded to pretty directly when Lincoln cites the “Almighty”:

    Mt 18:7 Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! [KJV]

    The saying is of course Dominical, and so Lincoln implies the Deity of Christ here.

    But even to follow that is in fact to yield control to yet another tangent and strawman, driven by the secularist revisionist agenda.

    The whole focus and tone of Lincoln’s address are deeply and thoroughly Biblical, in a context that acknowledges the God of scripture to be the true God who judges nations in history, and identifies Jesus as the Almighty. That is Christian, period.

    What we need to ask is why are so many ever so desperate to distance the Biblical, Christian influence from any positive development in our civilisation, and to find any way to paint it in the most lurid colours of blame. That speaks volumes. Saddening volumes.

    The underlying hostility and anti-christian bigotry that are rising up in our day need to be named and shamed for what they are: bigotry.

    Yes, bigotry.

    For shame!

    KF

  23. KF: Biblical yes, Christian, no.

    Why are you so frantically urgent about reading your sectarian religion back onto Lincoln’s theology when it is absent from what he actually wrote?

    And here is a wave to these onlookers, whoever you may be.

  24. Onlookers

    There we have it. In the teeth of direct facts, TA cannot bring himself to acknowledge their force, either in general or in specific. And, believe you me, a man who would sit out a call in a revival meeting on grounds of having a serious matter to think through, would have known just Who spoke in the words of Mt 18:7; and that man had far too much integrity to lie on the matter, and far too much eloquence to need to. (Also, notice, I spoke of the Christian and biblical — the two cannot be separated — influences at work.)

    That tells us much about what is wrong with our day.

    But all of this is on a tangent of a tangent.

    Let us learn, and do better.

    KF

  25. F/N: Remember, I have cited carefully pondered words, given at the re-dedication of his presidency and meant to serve as the theme to see the war through and then bind up the wounds of a scarred nation. Words that had been under development for years as he walked the bloody trail of woe and pondered a Christian nation hewn asunder by a massive moral failure in the teeth of its very foundational document, and reduced to bloody, dragged out war. Words, from a man of plainly deep thought, high integrity and nonpareil eloquence. Words that on their plain meaning are a Christian confession: the words of Jesus are those of the Almighty. A pivotal theme, then, to be built upon, meant in all they naturally convey. Words of a man who has now passed the dark night of the soul and through the weeping of the night has come to the first glimpse of morning. But, in the end, they are his unintentional testament: they were given six weeks before his death at the hands of revanchists.

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