Monday, June 24, 2013

The Border Security Amendment Vote

'This vote strongly suggests that immigration reform is on track to pass by more than a 2-1 margin later this week', writes America's Voice

Looks like Corker was right last week when he estimated 15 Rs would sign onto his amendment. .

Corker said he enjoyed working on this amendment "more than anything i've done in the US Senate"

 15 Republicans Senators voted for the Corker-Hoeven amendment. 6 Senators didn't make it.

Vote called at 67 to 27. Rand Paul was the final no:

Update by Chad Pergram:

'Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) arrives & votes aye on test vote. Now 67-26 with 15 GOP yeas.'

We are still waiting on the vote from Alexander, Brown, Chambliss, Coats, Enzi, Isakson, Lee, Paul and Udall (CO). 

Corker says vote count is right where expected. Last week he predicted 15Rs on board.

But we can safely assume at least fifteen Republican Senators will vote for this amendment:

Corker Ayotte Chiesa Collins Flake Graham Hatch Heller Hoeven Kirk McCain Murkowski Rubio Wicker

And Lamar Alexander (who still had to vote)

A noteworthy quote from Richard Land today:

Dr. Richard Land, president emeritus of ERLC and president-elect of Southern Evangelical Seminary, told The Christian Post that even if Soros had contributed to the EIT, he would welcome it because he supports immigration reform. The money would not influence his position on the issue.
"If God can use the jawbone of an ass to achieve His purpose, He can use George Soros, too,"
earlier in the day I found this:
Vitter, 13 other R sens write to Reid, asking him to slow down immigration reform debate.

Crumbs That Fall From Their Master's Table

I suddenly had the idea today to link the discussion between Jesus and the Cananite woman in which Jesus says “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs” (Matthew 15:21-28) with A.L. Th. de Bruijne's article Not of this World, contemporary reformed public theology and 'the anabaptist option'. 

At the same time I linked this discussion between Jesus and the Cananite woman with the first chapter of Klaas Schilder's commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism in which he explains that questions and answers in the catechism are allways in the framework of faith. Questions in the catechism are not the questions of the world.

As in the discussion between Jesus and the Cananite woman, the focus in the Catechism isn't on questions the world might have. Any answer that might be helpful to people outside of the Church is  collateral. We could call these collateral blessings. Ad de Bruijne makes a similar point when he writes (Not Of This World, page 135) 'this relativizes the ambition (of the Church) to be intentionally relevant for society'.

Viewing Presbyterian history through this lense explains the thoughtleadership of Princeton leading up and during the American revolution as collateral blessings. Paul teaches in Romans 8:18-25 that creation serves redemption, nature serves glory, the universe serves eschatology—specifically, creation serves the "sons of God" and, as Bill Dennison writes:
'God's providential history is not a "play" in which humans are the spectators trying to rationally comprehend, understand, and put together the "clues" that God has left for us (127). Rather, from God's perspective, the play, if you wish, portrays facts that must be believed without reservation since today is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2).'
 It might be why Samuel Finley wrote a book on the madness of man.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

So That By The Grace of God He Might Taste Death For Everyone

I recently wrote that 'showing how the Biblical theology of William Henry Green and Geerhardus Vos is built on Thomas Reid's Common Sense Philosophy could be very helpful in solving the tension between Corneli van Til's Transcendental Critique and Thomas Reid's Common Sense.'. The two are linked in J. Oliver Buswell's critical evaluation of Cornelis van Til's Presuppositionalism. Central argument he puts forward in that article is Hebrew 2:9:
'But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.'
 The more I read about Old Princeton, the more I see similarities between Abraham Kuyper and John Witherspoon. Kuyper's strategy in Church and Politics was focused on reconciling the vulgar and the learned. Like Witherspoon, Kuyper was far more interested in rhetoric engagement than in rhetoric theory or belleterie.

A recent blogpost by Justin Holcomb focuses on Cornelis van Til's assertion that 'there is no neutral common ground':
'The Dutch held to the belief that people have no religiously neutral, “objective” rational faculty. This meant there was no common ground, necessarily, shared between believers and nonbelievers.'
Bill Dennison's explanation of the Transcendental Critique and Oliver Buswell's critique of Dooyeweerd illustrate that there might be more common ground between Old Princeton and Abraham Kuyper then is often presupposed.

A phrase by J. Oliver Buswell in that article:
'Now, to the simple Bible believing Christian, unaffected by the Aristotelian “Unmoved Mover” or the pagan static absolute, the God of the Bible is revealed ‘to be intensely active in all of his works of providence and redemption.'
'Believing in the doctrine of “particular atonement,” it is not at all necessary for us to deny, or to hold apparently contradictory, or to hold as paradoxical the fact that Christ tasted death “for every man” in a very true sense of the word, namely, in the sense that his atonement is sufficient, applicable, and genuinely offered to all.'
In the light of the plain statement of Hebrews 2:9, Professor Van Til’s unqualified statement that “Christ has not died for all men” is intolerable.'
J. Oliver Buswell's words remind me of a phrase in a blogpost on similarities between Jonathan Edwards and Klaas Schilder in which I quote Schilder stating:
'We should take our starting point in what is revealed'

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Trust But Verify Amendment Rejected

Remember the guy President Obama was playing golf with beginning of may? Right. As I expected (see also CSM yesterday) Bob Corker (R) of Tennessee, is emerging as a key player in the Senate bid for immigration reform. A couple of days ago he hinted:
'I'm certainly one of those people who wants to see some sort of productive outcome'
We can see this reflected in the vote today. The Senate voted 61-37 on Wednesday to table (kill) an amendment from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) (which is a good thing):
'GOP members of the Gang of Eight — Sens. John McCain (Ariz), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) — voted against Paul's amendment, along with Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine) and Bob Corker (Tenn.).'
Note how this process is moving forward in a perfectly scripted way. Nobody should have any illusions that this outcome was not completely predictable. The Republican party isn't going to be hijacked by individuals like Steve King who has consistently sabotaged constructive grassroot activism in 2007 (Huckabee) and 2011(Ron Paul).

However, the way this process is moving forward shows how much work Rand Paul still has ahead of him to be able to fly without the help of the Tennessee/ Kentucky 'quartet' (Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell).

Bob Corker played the exact same role during the Chuck Hagel nomination process. He made sure filibuster went nowhere which was key.

When, June first, he said he was 'hopeful on immigration reform' he knew exactedly what he was talking about.

Reconciling The Vulgar And The Learned

Tom Rosenstiel wrote two days ago that journalism's future is collaboration between citizens, technology and professional journalists towards deeper and wider public intelligence. A theme that reminds me of a the excellent article The Scottish Tradition in Economics and the Role of Common Sense in Adam Smith's Thought in which Flavio Comim quotes Davie (1976):
 'the central problem of Scottish philosophy'(Davie 1976): the problem of reconciling the vulgar and the learned'

Flavio Commin's essay on Common Sense in Adam Smith's thought refutes the claim by Gawkin Kennedy that Thomas Reid is merely a parochial philosopher. In this context of reconciling the vulgar and the learned 'contesting the theory of rationality and justification implicit in Hume's skepticism' (Michael De Moore) suddenly makes a lot more sense.
'we should either trust all our faculties, or distrust them all'  - Thomas Reid
Collaboration between 'the vulgar and the learned' is what Princeton's thoughtleadership under Samuel Finley and John Witherspoon aimed for. It's the reason John Witherspoon,  in his "Answers to the Reasons of Dissent", rejected the moderates in Scotland and why he wasn't interested in 'instilling the classical knowledge essential to a scholarly gentleman'.

Hans Joachim Störig's writes in 'History of Philosophy':
'Thomas Reid's 'School' uses common sense to avoid having to digg deeper into the criticism of the mind is, to quote Immanuel Kant, 'ultimately no different than relying on the judgement of the masses, a round of applause for which the philosopher is ashamed.'
Incredibly unconvincing statement considering the fact that this was precisely the central problem Scottish Philosophy was working on. You get the impression from this statement that Kant, instead of entering the field and engaging Scottish philosophy, he just runs of with the ball.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Senate Vote To Proceed To Debate Immigration Reform Bill

Let's take a look at these 2 votes:
'With an 82 to 15 vote Tuesday afternoon, the Senate voted to end debate on a motion to proceed to an immigration reform bill.

Shortly thereafter, the Senate voted 84 to 15 in favor of a motion to proceed.'
Senator Rubio announced friday that the Motion to proceed S744 would be voted on June 11th. Byron York reported monday 10th:
'In a Spanish-language interview Sunday with the network Univision, Sen. Marco Rubio, the leading Republican on the Gang of Eight comprehensive immigration reform group, made his strongest statement yet that legalization of the nation’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants must happen before any new border security or internal enforcement measures are in place'
Who were the 15 that voted against the motion to proceed to S744? List can be found here:

Enzi (R-WY), Nay
Barrasso (R-WY), Nay
Boozman (R-AR), Nay 

Crapo (R-ID), Nay
Cruz (R-TX), Nay 

Grassley (R-IA), Nay 
Inhofe (R-OK), Nay
Kirk (R-IL), Nay
Lee (R-UT), Nay
Risch (R-ID), Nay
Roberts (R-KS), Nay 

Scott (R-SC), Nay 
Sessions (R-AL), Nay 
Shelby (R-AL), Nay 
Vitter (R-LA), Nay  

Boozman (R-AR), Nay

McCain (R-AZ), Not Voting 
Murkowski (R-AK), Not Voting
Coburn (R-OK), Not
Once again, as during the Chuck Hagel nomination, Senator Jim Inhofe marginalises himself.

This is also funny:

'The leaders of unions representing workers at the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said in a letter sent to lawmakers last month that the Senate measure is too weak on securing the borders in part because it doesn't provide for enough agents.'

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Princeton's Thoughtleadership & Scottish Enlightenment

'When John Witherspoon arrived at Princeton in 1768, he found a curriculum that represented some of the most significant innovations of the period' writes Thomas Miller. How did Princeton at that time relate to Scottish Enlightenment? And what should this tell us about Princeton's relationship to Common Sense Realism?

Let's take a look at Murray N. Rothbard's interpretation of Scottish Enlightenment:
'In this atmosphere corrosive of Christian faith and values, it is remarkable that the Scottish Enlightenment was linked very closely with the Presbyterian Church. How did this happen? How did a Scottish kirk that, in the 16th century under the aegis of John Knox, had been fiery and militant, become softened into a church that welcomed the Enlightenment, i.e., natural law, reason, and latitudinarian if not skeptical Christianity?'
'The answer is that in the two centuries since John Knox the hard-nosed Calvinist faith had weakened in Scotland'

While Murray N. Rothbard sees a contrast between Scottish Enlightenment and the fierce militancy of 16th century Presbyterianism, I don't think Scottish Enlightenment could have existed without John Knox's educational vision. In the bookreview of Arthur Herman's book Scottish Enlightenment: the Scots' Invention of the Modern World by Irvine Welsh we read:
'And through innovations in philosophy, education, commerce, engineering, industry, architecture, town planning, soldiering, administration, medicine and even tourism, the Scots invented the modern world of capitalist democracy. The springboard for this was the most powerful legacy of the Presbyterian revolution: a universal (or near-universal) education system.'
Samuel Finley's West Nottingham College in Maryland implemented this same vision in Cecile County Maryland. Leading up to the American revolution, 'enlightenment' and 'fierce militancy' of Presbyterianism functioned as two sides of the same coin as Princeton's President Samuel Finley, the architect of the American revolution, explains in his 1757 sermon on the Song of Deborah:
'they who expect divine knowledge without studying Scripture; the Holy Spirit, without Prayer; saving blessings, without attending on gospel ordinances; or Deliverance from temporal enemies, without Fighting against them, discover their deep Ignorance of Scripture, of Reason, and the Whole scheme of divine government'
The success of Princeton's thoughtleadership leading up to the American revolution was based on it's approach to solving the tensions between 'moderates' and 'evangelicals', Old Lights and New Lights, fronteer Scots-Irish and New-England puritans, Scottish and non-Scottish segments of US Presbyterianism. Samuel Finley's sermon (1761) on Romans 14 verse 7 and 8 adresses these different tensions and aims at creating a common sense among Americans:
'For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.'
To understand John Witherspoon's (succeeded Samuel Finley as Princeton's President in 1768) relationship to Thomas Reid and Common Sense we should keep in mind that 'Common Sense' took on a life of it's own in the thirteen Colonies thanks to Thomas Paine's political pamphlet for Independence in 1776. How to connect the two?

Common Sense became the interpretation of the classic stoic 'sensus communis' in two directions: the intrinsic value of the community and of the individual. And here comes in Rhetoric as the skill needed to sustain peace in society. C. Jan Swearingen quotes Thomas Reid's 'Eloquence' on Logic, Rhetoric  and the Fine Arts:
'Power of Speech one of the best gifts of God to Man. ..without it they could never have associated in Political Society, ....never had laws or government...must have remained Savages to all Generations'
The role 'sensus communis' plays in Aristotle's rhetoric illustrates how these two are linked:

'In rhetoric, the term is used to mean the whole set of unstated assumptions, prejudices, and values (see endoxa) that an orator can take for granted when addressing an audience. These are those opinions absorbed from society and the Zeitgeist without being exposed to to critical consideration'
Michelle F. Elbe and Lynée Lewis Gaillet in their paper 'Educating Community Intellectuals: Rhetoric, Moral Philosophy, and Civic Engagement' provides us the key element to solving this puzzle:
'Witherspoon was interested not in the emerging belleistric tradition or epistemology rhetorics promoted by Hugh Blair and George Campbell, but rather "with the practical art of speaking to public controversies"
Which reminds us of Jay Heinrichs' description of Aristotle:
'He was no Sophist, though he found a middle ground between the absolutism of Socrates and the sophists’ untrustworthy pragmatism.'
Thomas Miller gives great insight into the nature of the training at Princeton at the time:
'According to Bohman, Witherspoon developed the most extensive program of oratorical study in revolutionary America. The students' diaries and letters are full of references to their compositions. Virtually every evening students gathered for speeches and debates in the main hall. These exercises, which sometimes included dramatic performances, were attended by the whole school as well as by townspeople and visiting dignitaries, who would occasionally offer comments and suggestions.'
Wikiepedia states:

'Thomas Reid often quotes Cicero, from whom he adopted the term "sensus communis"'

Friday, June 7, 2013

'Moses Wrote Of Me'

The relationship and/or supposed tension between Cornelius van Til's Transcendental Critique and Thomas Reid's Common Sense Philosophy is part of one of the most exciting puzzles I'm trying to solve in my mind:
'Bill Dennison’s interpretation of Cornelis van Til’s transcendental critique together with his understanding of ‘the heart of Reformed Biblical Theology and its redemptive-historical hermeneutic’ leaves the possibility open that the essence of Cornelis van Til’s approach can be reconciled with Thomas Reid’s Common Sense Philosophy.'
This immediately brings to mind the possibility, which seems implied in Bill Dennison's approach, that there is a direct link between Thomas Reid's Common Sense Philosophy and Biblical theology as taught at Princeton. In other words, Biblical Theology could or should be understood as a consistent application of Thomas Reid's Common Sense Philosophy. Biblical theology without common sense makes little sense.

The aim of Princeton's founding fathers, as Samuel Finley argued in his famous sermon (1561 occasioned by the death of Samuel Davies), was to exercise 'our rational powers' not in merely curious and amusing researches, but in matters the most useful and important. To be in pursuit of learning, that ornament of human minds, not with a view only to shine more conspicuous, but that we may serve our generation to better advantage.

John Witherspoon's lectures on moral philosophy and rhetoric clearly served that purpose as explained in the excellent article 'Educating Community Intellectuals: Rhetoric, Moral Philosophy and Civic Engagement' by  Michelle F. Elbe and  Lynée Lewis Gaillet.

When William Henry Green pleaded with Geerhardus Vos to accept the newly created chair of Biblical Theology we should see it in light  of this Common Sense tradition.

Which makes it worthwhile to understand the thought of mathematician(!) turned Old Testament scolar William Henry Green. His mathematical background shines through beautifuly in this article on the primeval chronology.

In Peter Enns discussion of William Henry Green's understanding of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch we read this phrase:
'it is at least as plausible to posit the theory that Jesus' ('Moses wrote of me') words here should be read as a device to convict these Jews on the grounds of what they hold most dear: their authoritative Scripture'
Not too fast Peter, I would say. At this point in the article Peter Enns suddenly moves from a discussion of the scope of Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch to discussing the authority of the Pentateuch itself. A strange transition in the middle of an otherwise interesting look at William Henry Green's approach.

However, showing how the Biblical theology of William Henry Green and Geerhardus Vos is built on Thomas Reid's Common Sense Philosophy could be very helpful.

Seakle Greydanus was interested in the United States (where he had lived for two years with his family) which made him discover theology at Princeton. Could this explain the connection between Schilder and Geerhardus Vos concerning Historic-Redemptive preaching?

This direct link between (Scottish) Common Sense (Philosophy?) and Historic-Redemptive preaching, which I think exists, deserves a lot more scrutiny than it's currently receiving (or did I miss something?).

To be continued.

article by Peter J. Wallace on the foundations of Reformed Biblical Theology might give some additional info.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Common Sense in Transcendentalism

At the Time 100 Gala US Senator Rand Paul toasted to David Henry Thoreau saying:
'because I think that people who will stand up for principle, who fill fight for justice should be supported wether it's popular or unpopular, here is to David Henry Thoreau'
Allthough the toast is not an endorsement of Henry David Thoreau's ideas, it does point to Thoreau's popularity among a segment of American Libertarians. The question remains wether there is a direct link between libertarianism and transcendentalism? And if there is, what is it?

In his blogpost Henry David Thoreau: Founding Father of American Libertarian Thought Jeff Riggenbach points to the direct link between David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson's thought:
'Yet where had Thoreau picked up such radical ideas in the first place? Wasn't it, at least in part, from Emerson himself? It was Emerson, after all, who wrote in 1833, when Thoreau was a teenage student at Harvard, that "a man contains all that is needful to his government within himself.'
One could argue that (Emerson's) transcendentalism is just 'the most philosophically subtle and intellectually cosmopolitan' of 'an array of iconoclastic spiritual movements that spread across the northeastern United States during the Second Great Awakening'.

However, from reading a brief introduction into Ralph Waldo Emerson's 'Transcendentalism'(in A History of Philosophy, volume 8 by Frederick Copleston, S.J.) I get the impression he merged Scottish Common Sense Realism with Unitarian theology, and he was being admirably consistent.

In 1938 Odell Shepard remarked "We may yet come to realize that the entire Transcendental Movement was a revolt against Locke". This points to a common denominator with Thomas Reid who  argued strongly against the Theory of Ideas advocated by John Locke. The fact that Ralph Waldo Emerson was clearly influenced by Thomas Reid is illustrated in this short quote:
'Ralph Waldo Emerson treated John Locke as an exponent of “the old school” (“Historic Notes” 500) and repeatedly uttered his dislike of Locke’s theory because it imposes its absolute and all-encompassing “classification[s] on other men” (“Self-Reliance” 226).'
This reminds of Thomas Reid's rejection of Locke's 'idea of an apple' over against the common sense awareness, without mediation, of the apple. Thomas Reid is also 'well known for his criticisms of Locke's view of personal identity' which is called the 'Storehouse Model'. Toni Vogel Carey writes in his essay 'Scotland and Harvard Yard: The dominance and decline of Scottish common sense':
'Thoreau and Emerson were schooled in this philosophy (Reidian Thought) at Harvard and Emerson specifically praised Reid and Stewart in his 1821 Bowdoin prize essay.'
Very interesting! And certainly a good idea to read "The American Scolar" Oration, 'his first great public address and the most celebrated talk in American academic history' (ahum). 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

How James Guthrie And William Govan Defined Liberty

W.J. Seaton sums it up:
 'In many ways, once we have read the sketch of James Guthrie, we have read the book, for his is the story of all the covenanters'
The Staple Act of 1663 & 1699  together with the Test Act, which triggered Scots-Irish immigration to America, make it perfectly clear why Scots-Irish anger boiled over when the English tried this game again in the 18th century with the Stamp Act:
'At the outbreak of the Revolution in 1775 the Scots-Irish, in interesting contrast to many of their Scottish cousins, were among the most determined adherents of the rebel cause.'
Ross Douthat asked this week What is Reform Conservatism? and concluded:
'what people who use the term mostly have in mind, I think, are those of us who think that the American right’s biggest problem, both politically and practically, lies in economic policy'
 This obviously clashes with Rand Paul's call for inclusiveness and emphasis on his eco-friendly lifestyle.

Rand Paul's message at the Lincoln Dinner in Iowa, allthough deliberately ignored by Byron York and willfully distorted by Craig Robinson was very clear:
"We’re an increasingly diverse nation, and I think we do need to reach out to other people that aren’t like us, don’t look like us, don’t wear the same clothes, that aren’t exactly who we are”
 "We need the passion of Patrick Henry, ‘Give me liberty or give me death!’”
American right's biggest problem does not lie in economic policy, but in a shallow understanding of what Liberty means. When Rand Paul refers to Patrick Henry, we are reminded of William Govan and James Guthrie,  according to Cromwell "the short little man who could not bow", who were executed in Glasgow 1 June 1661:
'Guthrie's farewell letter (1 June 1661) to his wife shows great strength of character. At eleven o'clock the same day he signed a paper to dispose of the rumour that he was willing to retract. At dinner he called for cheese, saying his physicians had forbidden it, but he was beyond the need of such precautions. He spoke at the scaffold for about an hour, leaving a copy of his speech to be given to his son when he came of age. Opportunities of escape, he said, he had rejected, as flight might be taken as an admission of guilt. At the last moment he "raised the napkin from his eyes", and lifted up his voice for the covenants.'
We should reread Andrew Clarkson's Plain Reasons for Presbyterians Dissenting(1731), George Gillespie´s Aaron´s Rod Blossoming (especially chapter IV), add to it Benjamin Franklin's Plain Truth from 1747 and think how Benjamin Rush encouraged Thomas Paine to publish Common Sense in 1776.

Liberty never meant just economic freedom as  George Whitefield said in 1765
'My heart bleeds for America. There is a plot against both your civil & religious liberties & they will be lost'
´Liberty is the nurse of riches, literature and heroism´ says John Witherspoon in Lecture XII (Moral Philosophy) on Civil Society.

 The skulls of James Guthrie and William Govan on the Nether Bow and West Ports in Edinburgh reminded Scottish dissenters for 27 years that they would have to fight for their civil and religious liberties. As Samuel Finley, grandson of 1658 Glasgow University graduate, said in a sermon in 1757
'they who expect divine knowledge without studying Scripture; the Holy Spirit, without Prayer; saving blessings, without attending on gospel ordinances; or Deliverance from temporal enemies, without Fighting against them, discover their deep Ignorance of Scripture, of Reason, and the Whole scheme of divine government'
Kentucky Senator James Guthrie was a descendant of Reverend James Guthrie.