Monday, September 06, 2010

What I've Been Reading

I've finished five chapters in Darwin’s Origin of Species (I only read this book when relaxing in the tube, so if I ever do finish it, it will not be any time soon). If have, for the second time, started reading The Sword of the Prophet: Islam History, Theology, Impact on the World by Serge Trifkovic. I'm also several chapters into Like Father, Like Son: The Trinity Imaged in Our Humanity by Tom Smail.

I’ve also read Emmanuel Kant’s prefaces (one and two) to his Critique of Pure Reason and have started reading the book. My buddy Seep has informed me that, even though I read some very obscure stuff, I will not be able to complete Kant. He says it is worse than Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, which I did not like at all.

I’ve also been dabbling in Holiness by Bishop J.C. Ryle and I recently completed his The Thing As It Is: Being Questions and Answers about the Lords Supper. I also finished a short book, which I downloaded via Google Books, titled The Book of Common Prayer: Its Origin and Growth by J.H. Benton. I found this little book informative and I learned some interesting history as well.

Today, I started a little book that I picked up at a used bookstore in the Vieux CarrĂ© this summer. It’s titled C.S. Lewis Through the Shadowlands: The Story of His Life with Joy Davidman. I should finish it up quickly. I am reading the latest issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, which is the only magazine to which I currently subscribe.

I want to tackle something in the Church Fathers. I need to get back to St. Augustine’s City of God. I read the first book when I finished it I set the rest of it aside, even though I thought the first part was very good. I need to pick it back up.

I have books on the nightstand next to my bed and scattered here and there in the hose that I am always reading snippets from. It the moment my reading is way too scattered.

I’ve been listening to a lot of lectures that Seep and I downloaded from Reformed, Covenant and Westminster Seminaries. Right now I am listening to Dr. John Frame’s lecture series (from Reformed Seminary) History of Philosophy and the Church. I’ve completed 25 of the 35 lectures in the series. I am also listening to the audio version of David McCullough's biography John Adams.

Yes, I know most of these items sound REALLY boring, but I like this stuff. I find most of this stuff very interesting, but I still want to finish painting my house so I can go fishing in my kayak.

Coram Deo,

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Book of Bertram

The link is what I believe to be a very interesting book (The Book of Bertram) written about 840 AD by a French monk (Bertram). It is written to King Charles the Bald, the grandson of Charlemagne. This small book is written to answer questions the king asked concerning the Lord’s Supper.

Bertram’s view of the Eucharist differs significantly from the Roman Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation, which became official Church teaching at the 4th Lateran Council (1215 AD). The views expressed by Bertram are similar to those of the Protestant reformer, John Calvin some 700 years later. This book also played an important role in convincing a number of important English reformers to reject Transubstantiation and turn to the Reformed position on the Supper.


Monday, August 09, 2010

St. Cyprian and the Bishop of Rome

I have read the writings of Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, which were written during the middle of the third century. Cyprian served as bishop during a time of great persecution and controversy in the Church of Jesus Christ. He served the Christ and His Church during a very trying time for the people of God.

In the year 250 AD, the Roman Emperor Decius ordered that all the inhabitants of the empire had to offer a sacrifice or burn incense “for the safety of the empire” for which they would receive a certificate. The sacrifice and the burning of incense were both forms of pagan worship and Christians refused to comply with the order. This in turn led to fierce persecution of Christians. Many Christians had all their property confiscated by the government, while others were imprisoned, tortured and killed for failing to comply to the order of the emperor. Other believers fled and hid from government officials.

During this time there were Christians who compromised their faith and capitulated to the orders of their pagan rulers. They obeyed Caesar rather than God. Many of those who failed the test repented of their failings and sought to be reconciled with the Church. This led to a crisis in the Church. Those who had were able to keep their property. They also avoided imprisonment, torture and death, by denying Christ before government officials.

This crisis in the church was dealt with and the “lapsed” who repented were reconciled to the Church in time, but for a while there was a schism over how to deal with those that failed th test but wished to be reconciled to the Church. Some people wanted to just forgive and forget and let the lapsed return, even while fellow believers were still being tortured and killed for their faith in Christ. On the other extreme were some Christians who believed the lapsed should never be allowed back into the Church.

Bishop Cyprian, the bishop of Rome and the majority of other bishops in the empire took a middle course, which sought to reconcile the lapsed believers to Christ Church. Still, Cyprian and the bishop of Roman disagreed on a number of particulars and it becomes clear when reading Cyprian that he did not believe that he, or his fellow bishops in Africa, were answerable to or had to bow before the edicts of the Roman bishop.

While reading Cyprian it became clear to me that he did not believe the Bishop of Rome had authority over him or over other bishops. J. Patout Burns Jr, in his book Cyprian the Bishop comes to the same conclusion. He writes, “When Stephen [Bishop of Rome] asserted such a right, by virtue of being the successor of Peter and the bishop of a church which preserved authentic apostolic practice, Cyprian explicitly rejected the claim. Firmilian [bishop] of Caesarea ridiculed Stephens assertion Neither could conceive of such authority being wielded legitimately by a single bishop over his colleagues.” (pg 158)

Elsewhere, Dr Burns concludes that the bishops of that time, “consistently rejected the Roman bishops claim to authority on the basis of apostolic foundation.” (pg. 165)

The 6th decade of the 3rd century was a very trying time for the Church. Three of Rome’s bishops were killed because of their faith in Christ, as was St. Cyprian in 258 AD, but it needs to be remembered that at that time the Bishop of Rome was not recognised by Cyprian, Firmilian or their fellow bishops to have authority over them.

Coram Deo,

Sunday, July 11, 2010

More On St. Paul's Advice

I’ve mentioned before that my favourite text of Scripture is found in St. Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi. It reads, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, Rejoice! Let your moderation be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, my brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are right, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue and if there is any praise, think on these things. Do those things which you have also learned and received and heard and seen in me. And the God of peace shall be with you.
These words have meant a lot to me over the years. I have read them countless times and I still read them often. In these word’s St. Paul is telling us to always look and see that “The glass is half full” and then act with that in mind. It seems that some of us, me included, are born with the predisposition to do the exact opposite of what Paul advises. We tend to look at the down side of every thing. We can’t see the good because we automatically focus in on what is wrong, or on what is less than perfect in a given situation.
We live in a fallen world where sin abounds, but we also live in a world created by God. God has entered this world in the person of Jesus Christ, and in so doing He has overcome sin and the devil. In the future, Christ will return and but an end to sin and death forever, but in the mean time we are to go about our lives looking for the good in things (in light of Scripture) and doing good.
We can all make excuses for not following the advice of St. Paul and think, “he would not have said that if he were in my position.” But that’s not true. Paul, by most of our standards, had a very hard life. He was often beaten, he was beaten so bad that he was left for dead on at least one occasion, and he was often imprisoned because of his service to Jesus and His Gospel.
In the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippian church, we learn that he is “in chains” and a prisoner. At the time he writes this letter, Paul has been a Roman prisoner for four or five years. In his letter he is not giving us some “pie in the sky” advice while every thing is going his way.
He tells us to, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, Rejoice!” while he is a prisoner in chains. He tells the church at Philippi, “whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are right, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue and if there is any praise, think on these things” even though he is a prisoner at Rome and he could be sentenced to death.
Paul’s words to the Philippians are also God’s command to us. We are to think Christ’s thoughts and Paul’s words tell us how to do that.
Coram Deo,

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What About Tradition?

The idea of tradition can be, and often is, a controversial subject among Christians. Still, it is a fact that all Christians observe and follow some type of tradition in what they believe and in their forms of worship. Let's look at one modern evangelical tradition, as an example of what I mean.

Baptists, and many other evangelical churches, have a tradition in which, at the end of their worship service, they have an altar call. This a tradition. The altar call after a worship service is a fairly recent tradition, and dates back only to the 19th century. Still, it is a tradition that many, if not most of the people in those churches where it is practiced, can not imagine Christian worship without it.

If you were to suggest to Southern Baptists that they do away with altar calls, I believe you will find that most Baptists would not even consider such an idea. As far as they know, and most of them probably believe, altar calls have always existed in the church even though it did not exist as a part of worship for the first nineteen hundred years that Christians have been gathering to worship the God of Scripture.

The altar call, after a worship services, is the invention of 19th century American revivalists preachers, yet it has become a very important tradition in American Evangelical forms of worship.
In the Bible we find tradition treated both negatively and positively. Traditions can be both a hindrance and a help in our Christian walk. Jesus repeatedly berated the Pharisees because they had “made void the word of God because of your tradition.” Yet Paul repeatedly tells those who received his letters to continue in the "traditions" that they had learned from him.

As human beings, it is impossible for us to avoid tradition in both our faith and our worship. The question is, how do our traditions line up with the word of God?” Are our traditions in accord with His Word, or are they making His word “void” as many of the traditions of the Pharisees had done?
Most Christians today don’t have a clue about what their own traditions are. They don't know where they came from or why they developed. It is all to human for all of us just to assume that “our way” of doing or saying this or that is the correct way. It is also natural to believe that our way is the way Christians have always done it.

It is normal to think that way. It is also normal to be wrong when you think that way.
For many of us, the only “old time religion” we know is what we have seen practiced in our own lifetime. We take for granted that this is right, because it is what we have experienced and all the people we worship with agree with us.

We Christians are in the “New Covenant” and this New Covenant was given to us more than 2,000 years ago. It is not something that began recently. The Christian Church has is a long history and we are poorer disciples of Christ when we know so little of the history of His Church, which is the body of Christ.

Our faith, our worship and our Scriptures did not appear to us out of thin air. They all have a history. There are traditions to all that we believe and do. It would be good to know the history of Christ's Church and when and how our traditions have developed.

St. Paul and Jesus had things to say about tradition, what would they think of your traditions or my traditions? Do any of our traditions make " void the word of God" like the traditions of the Pharisees?

Coram Deo,

Friday, June 11, 2010

My Radical Political Views

Long a go I read the Federalists and many of the Anti-federalists. My political views would be closer to both those groups than to modern Reps. or Dems.

As to the Federal Government, I am a Jeffersonian -- I would like a federal government that is truly federal and not the Nation State that now exist in the District of Columbia. (You know the one described in the Constitution and debated in the state ratifying conventions.)

Modern Democrats and modern Republicans worship the Nation State in Washington. Both parties want to use the national government to impose their ideology on the whole country.

I would go for a secession of blue from red states, or if you prefer, red from blue states, then the Red guys could do their thing and the Blue folks could do their thing and they could both stop trying to politically force their political/social ideologies on the other side.

I like the way Czechoslovakians settled their differences. There is no longer a Czechoslovakia today, instead there is now a Czech Republic and a Slovak Republic. The two peoples separated peacefully.

Of course the Dems. and Reps. will both consider my views as crazy. After all, if we were to divide up along the blue/red divide than we would no longer be the only remaining "Super Power" and we would have to start minding our own business and stop being the world's policeman. (Which will happen sooner or later anyway because bankrupt nations tend to be weak nations)

Coram Deo,

Thursday, May 27, 2010

New Job and Audio

My new job at is proving to be a great blessing. It is a stress free job, while my old job as Top Operator over a couple of HDS units, two Reformer units and a clean fuels unit was often very stressful and busy.
My new unit has few if any surprises and I was warned that I would become bored doing the same routine job everyday. I told them that after working as top operator for as many years as I have, I was ready for a little boredom. The good news is my new job is not boring. Sure it is the same routine everyday, but I am indoors and we are allowed radios with iPod docking stations here at the lab.
I'm currently only qualified for one job and I work in a building alone when I am on nights or working the weekend. Yesterday, I was able to listen to several hours of biographical lectures about the great French Reformer John Calvin, that my buddy MK downloaded from Reformed Theological Seminary's website. Today I've been listening to a course, also given at Reformed Seminary, on C.S. Lewis.
I can do my job, which is pretty routine, and listen to lectures or books. This is GREAT. I love my new job.
Coram Deo,

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Examine More Fully the Scriptures

Regrettably, in the history of the church, there have been times when the study of Scripture was discouraged by the Church. With the Protestant Reformation came a great push and emphasis on the importance Bible reading and study. Thanks to the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440, the Bible and other books became cheaper and much more accessible by the time Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany (i.e. 1517).

Greater distribution of the Bible and other books played a big part in bringing about the Protestant revolution that swept through much of 16th century Europe. And while Bible study was very important to the early Protestants, they were certainly not the first Christians to stress the importance of reading, studying and knowing the Word of God.

In 248 AD, about the same time Cyprian became Bishop of Carthage, he wrote a treatise for his “beloved son” Quirinus. Here is some of what Cyprian said about the importance of reading the Scriptures, “And these things may be of advantage to you meanwhile, as you read, for forming the first lineaments of your faith. More strength will be given you, and the intelligence of the heart will be effected more and more, as you examine more fully the Scriptures, old and new, and read through the complete volumes of the spiritual books.”

Bishop Cyprian knew how important it was for believers to be immersed in the Word of God. He understood that knowledge of God’s Word gives "strength" and "intelligence of the heart" to the believers who “examine more fully the Scriptures, old and new.

While reading the letters and treatises of St. Cyprian one thing becomes very clear almost at once, it is clear that Cyprian had immersed himself in God’s word. His writings are full of quotes from the Scriptures.
Cyprian knew the Bible at a time when getting access to the Scriptures was difficult and passion of the Scriptures could cost you your life. Today, there are Bibles everywhere and we will not be arrested or executed for reading the Scriptures.

In our day, Bible study is encouraged in Protestant and Catholic churches alike. We all would do well to heed Cyprian’s advice to Quirinus and “examine more fully the Scriptures, old and new, and read through the complete volumes of the spiritual books.

Coram Deo,

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Unmoved Against all the Terrors

Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, served Christ and His Church during a time of fearful persecution. It was common for Christians to be killed and maimed simply because they would worship no other God other than the triune God of the Bible.
In a treatise written to Demetrianus, Roman proconsul of Africa, Cyprian addressed the persecution that the Church was then having to enduring at the hands of Demetrianus. He wrote, “You deprive the innocent, the just, the dear to God, of their home; you spoil them of their estate, you load them with chains, you shut them up in prison, you punish them with the sword, with the wild beasts, with the flames. Nor, indeed, are you content with a brief endurance of our sufferings, and with a simple and swift exhaustion of pains. You set on foot tedious tortures, by tearing our bodies; you multiply numerous punishments, by lacerating our vitals; nor can your brutality and fierceness be content with ordinary tortures; your ingenious cruelty devises new sufferings.
The government could then seize your property just for being a Christian. They could arrest you and throw you into prison for being a Christian. They could torture you in the most blood thirsty and brutal way, just for being a Christian. They could kill you by sword, crucifixion, feed you to wild animals in the arena, or burn you alive – just for being a Christian.
Demetrianus, was the man in charge of doing all these things to the Christians in North Africa, still Cyprian could write and say to him, “…we pour forth our prayers, and, propitiating and appeasing God, we entreat constantly and urgently, day and night, for your peace and salvation.
In another treatise Cyprian wrote to his fellow believers, he wrote to encourage them in there suffering, he wrote to strengthen them, he wrote them to prepare them for torture and death at the hands of the state. He said, “The brave and steadfast mind, founded in religious meditations, endures; and the spirit abides unmoved against all the terrors of the devil and the threats of the world, when it is strengthened by the sure and solid faith of things to come. In persecutions, earth is shut up, but heaven is opened; Antichrist is threatening, but Christ is protecting; death is brought in, but immortality follows; the world is taken away from him that is slain, but paradise is set forth to him restored; the life of time is extinguished, but the life of eternity is realized. What a dignity it is, and what a security, to go gladly from hence, to depart gloriously in the midst of afflictions and tribulations; in a moment to close the eyes with which men and the world are looked upon, and at once to open them to look upon God and Christ!
Modern Christians can learn a lot from St. Cyprian and those in his diocese who suffered and died for the cause of Christ and His Kingdom.
Coram Deo,

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage

I've mentioned before how much I enjoy reading the Church Fathers (I know it's kinda weird). About five years ago, I purchased a massive 38 volume set of books, which contains much of the Christian writings written during the first 500 years after Christ.

Of the Church Fathers, St. Cyprian is one of my favourites. Cyprian was born about the year 208 AD, into a wealthy pagan family in what is today Tunisia, in North Africa. He was a well educated, successful, prosperous Roman Citizen before his conversion to the Christian Faith.

Cyprian became a Christian at a time when the Christian faith was still illegal in the Roman Empire. He came to Christ when sporadic and intense persecutions were still a normal occurrence and part of Roman policy. Cyprian came to Christ when it could cost you your life, and he was willing to pay that high a price for the salvation that is available in Christ alone.

Cyprian became Bishop of Carthage around 248 AD and served the church and Christ in that position for a decade. In 256 AD a new round of Roman persecutions began. In August 257 Cyprian was called to appear before the Roman proconsul. At his hearing he refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods and gave testimony to his faith in Jesus his Saviour. For his actions and testimony he was banished from Carthage for a time, he eventually returned but remained under house arrest. In 258 a new edict came from the Emperor demanding that Christian clergymen be executed.

On September 14, 258 Cyprian again appeared before the proconsul and was sentenced to death. When his sentence was pronounced his only reply was, “Thanks be to God.” The execution was carried out that same day before a large crowd. When he arrived at the place of execution, Cyprian removed his robe and knelt down to pray, after his prayer he tied his blindfold into place and was beheaded by a Roman sword.

Cyprian is one of our greater brothers who came before us in the faith. He wrote a great deal and we still possess many of his letters and treatises. I’ve read most of what we still have from St. Cyprian and recommend his writings to everyone.

Coram Deo,

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Thoughts about a Quote

"For it is written that the just lives by faith. If you are just, and live by faith, if you truly believe in Christ, why, since you are about to be with Christ, and are secure of the Lord’s promise, do you not embrace the assurance that you are called to Christ, and rejoice that you are freed from the devil?"

The other morning, while out on my front porch drinking coffee and reading, I ran across the quote above. I immediately called my friend Mike S., also known as MK, and read the passage to him. I then asked, "Who do you think that is?" Mike hesitated for a moment and said, "It sounds like Luther." That is exactly what I thought when I read it, and that is why I called Mike, to see if he thought the same thing.

The quote precedes Martin Luther by more than twelve hundred years. It was written by St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, somewhere around 250 AD, in a treatise he wrote during a plague that was then raging through North Africa. The treatise is written to comfort believers who were dying or had friends and relatives die from the infection.

Cyprian is my favourite of the Church Fathers that lived prior to the first great council of the whole Church, the Council of Nicea, which was in 325 AD. Cyprian had a pastor's heart. In this treatise also said, "The fear and faith of God ought to make you prepared for everything, although it should be the loss of private estate, although the constant and cruel harassment of your limbs by agonizing disorders, although the deadly and mournful wrench from wife, from children, from departing dear ones; Let not these things be offenses to you, but battles: nor let them weaken nor break the Christian’s faith, but rather show forth his strength in the struggle, since all the injury inflicted by present troubles is to be despised in the assurance of future blessings."

Today, most Christians (Catholic and Protestant) have never heard of, much less, read Cyprian or the other Fathers of the Christian Church. It is our loss, There is much that we can learn from Cyprian and many of the Fathers.
Coram Deo,

Monday, April 05, 2010

Wine and Worship

For more than 1800 years wine was used in all Christian churches when the Lord's Supper was celebrated. There was no other option because Dr. Welch did not apply Louis Pasteur discovery, which inhibited fermentation, to grape juice until after the mid 1800's. Before that time ALL communion wine was really wine, and not grape juice.
Of course wine was a part biblical worship long before it was used by Jesus and His disciples at the Last Supper. The Last Supper was initiated by Jesus while He and His disciples celebrated the Passover. I have read the VERY silly arguments made by some people that Jesus used grape juice at the Last Supper/ Passover. These people clearly don't know much about fermentation. If they did, they would know that it would not be possible for Jesus and His disciples to have drank grape juice without a miracle, and there is no such miracle mentioned in the Bible.
Grapes ripen in late summer and fall. The juice is extracted shortly after harvesting. As soon as the wine skin is broken, yeast, which occurs naturally in nature and is on wine skins, will immediately begin to turn the sugars contained in the juice to alcohol. Yeast works quickly and in less than two weeks all the sugar is gone and is replaced by alcohol and CO2.
Passover is observed in the spring, so all the grape juice processed in the harvest  closest to the Last Supper become wine long before Passover arrived. Therefore, Jesus and His disciples either drank wine at the Last Supper, or Jesus preformed a miracle, that we have not been told about.
If my teetotaling, Evangelical brethren are correct, and we are not to drink wine, especially in worship, then prior to Dr. Welch's discovery, you would only have been be able to observe the Lord's Supper in late summer or fall, and you would have to live very close to a vineyard. Like I said above, the whole idea is silly and people who make such claims are (at this point) making ridicules claims.
Wine is used in worship in both the Old and New Covenants. One has to do some serious exegetical contortions and twist a lot of Scripture to say otherwise.
I hope to say more on that subject in the future.
Coram Deo,

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Its All Still Pork

Republicans and Democrats in Washington both love pork. It is true that they don't like the same cut of the pig. Republicans may the (slightly) leaner cuts of meat, but no matter how you slice up the hog it is all still pork.

Each side are very concerned about balancing the budget when it is out of power. When in power they see no reason to do so.

A pox on both parties.

Coram Deo,

Sunday, March 14, 2010

About the Constitution

My good friend Gary sent a quote by Ron Paul to myself and a number of our co-workers. I then did a “reply all” and voiced my approval of Congressman Paul’s statement. My comments lead to a response to “all” from Sky. This then lead to an exchange of emails between me and my co-worker, which our friends were able to keep up with.

I’ve decided to place the whole exchange here, for anyone else that may find it interesting.




From: Gary

Sent: Thursday, February 25, 2010 6:51 AM
To: Kenith
Subject: Constitution

"The Constitution was written for one specific purpose, and that was to restrain government, not to restrain the people.”

Congressman Ron Paul, TX


From: Andry, Kenith N.
Sent: Thursday, February 25, 2010 6:51 AM
To: Gary

Subject: RE: Constitution

Ron Paul is correct and the quotes from the Founding Fathers that can be produced to verify his statement are countless.

Here is just one, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." (Amendment 10 of the Bill of Rights) Of course the state governments were also by their own Constitutions.


From: Sky
Sent: Saturday, February 27, 2010 12:37 PM
To: Kenith
Subject: RE: Constitution

I don't doubt that the framers of the constitution intended to restrict or limit the powers of the federal government in deference to the powers of the individual states. But surely Kenny, even you must admit that Mr. Paul's statement is very broad and far reaching. Surely it was not the SOLE intent of the constitution to define the limits of the federal government. There must certainly have been some other reasons. If the intent was solely to restrain the federal government, shouldn't that have been stated in the preamble? Or at the very least wouldn't it have been in one of the main articles instead of in an amendment, and the last of the original amendments at that? I am no student of history but didn't the present constitution replace the Articles of Confederation? And in doing so, replaced the confederation with a federation? Would that not in itself suggest that the main purpose if not the sole purpose of the Constitution was to forge a stronger federal government? Kenny, surely you must agree that if it can be argued that there was even one other purpose for the Constitution being written, then Mr. Paul's statement as quoted has to be false.


From: Kenith

Sent: Tuesday, March 02, 2010 8:18 PM
To: Sky
Subject: RE: Constitution


You are correct the Constitution was written to replace the United States confederation that existed under the Articles of Confederation. The powers of the United States Federal government are broader under the Constitution than they were under the Constitution. So Ron Paul's statement is clearly a hyperbole, which I'm sure made perfect sense in Context.

Sure the Constitution defines the powers of the house, senate, courts, president and it further defines specified powers of the federal government it was creating, etc... The Founding Fathers made clear in their multiple debates in the newspapers of the day and in the ratifying conventions of the states that the Federal government was to be limited to the "expressed powers" written in to the (then) proposed constitution. The new Government would be, as James Madison said, "bound by the chains of the Constitution." Even with the assurance that the federal government could not do more than what was clearly defined in the Constitution; there was still great distrust and opposition to the Constitution.

There was enough distrust that it became clear that the Constitution would not be ratified, UNLESS the Framers agreed to amendments to further define and restrain the Government to be created by the Constitution. It was only after it was agreed that there would be a Bill of Right to further restrain the limits and powers of the federal government was it possible to ratify the Constitution.

During the founding era, the words federation and confederation were used interchangeably. This can be seen in Noah Webster's dictionary. Webster was personally involved in the debate over the Constitution.

Tommy, I will read your link soon. It looks good.



From: Sky

Sent: Wednesday, March 03, 2010 5:25 PM
To: Kenith
Subject: RE: Constitution

Hey there Kenny, Welcome back to the discussion. :) I had to look up hyperbole. I thought it might be a geometric figure or something. Perhaps in its original context Congressman Paul was trying to make a strong point. Not knowing what that context or point is, however, I am unable to speculate as to his intent. The quote was offered up here in all of its naked splendor as a stand alone statement. (Thanks Gary) Whenever I read something that speaks in absolutes it makes the 'difference of opinion' hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

Thanks for all of the good information Kenny. There is some interesting stuff here. I certainly can't dispute any of the historical info here but there are a few things that don't seem so clear. I am not sure what group of people is being referred to as 'founding fathers'. I don't know how many if any were involved in the drafting and or ratifications of both documents (Articles of Confederation and Constitution). But it seems to me (and this is just my opinion) that somebody either deliberately or by accident was trying not to put too many limits on Federal powers. The Bill of Rights ( as its nickname implies) spells out a lot of rights granted to its citizens by the Constitution. And in a broad sense I can see where one might infer that these in a sense are to keep the Federal Government from usurping these rights, thereby limiting the strangle hold that could be imposed. However, only the last of these amendments spells it out. The second article of the Articles of Confederation appears to make a similar statement defining the sovereignty of the individual states and limiting the powers of the Federal government to those expressly granted to it by that document. My question is, doesn't it seem that it would have been either a gross oversight or a deliberate omission to leave that out of articles of the Constitution? In either case I am finding it hard to understand how the same group of people could do that if their main intent was for the specific purpose of limiting the centralized government. I know the answer is probably buried in James Madison's diary or something but I will have to wait till another time to read it.

You will have to let me know what you think about Jon Roland's essay when you read it. It seems that he makes one of the same points that you do, that over the years the Federal government has exceeded the authority granted to it by the constitution and continues to do so. He also suggests an interesting possible solution to his perceived problem. My question on the point that you both make is do you really think that the Constitution, as it is still as applicable in its original form to our society today as it was 400 years ago? There surely must be quite a few things that the government regulates today that could not possibly have been conceived or foreseen by these folks we are calling the founding fathers.


From: Kenith
Sent: Thursday, March 04, 2010 1:38 PM
To: Sky
Subject: RE: Constitution

Hey Sky,

The Founding Fathers commonly refer to the men involved in the writing, and ratifying such documents as the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution, and to a lesser extent those who fought in the War for American Independence. These common definition means "Founding Fathers" includes a fairly large group of people, but in discussing the Constitution it tends to be limited to those directly involved in writing and ratifying the Constitution.

There were 55 delegates to the Philadelphia convention that gave us the Constitution. George Washington was elected President of the convention, which lasted from May to September (1787). Among the delegates to the convention, Alexander Hamilton (from New York) was the leading proponent of a strong, central, unified government, he played a large part in the debates for a time but when it was clear the proposed constitution would not create such a government he left the convention early.

The United States, under the Articles of Confederation, only had a legislature (no executive or courts) and it had no taxing powers and was completely dependent on the states for income, and the states were not very good at sending money to the united government. By 1787 it had become clear to many of the founders that the Articles of Confederation were insufficient for maintaining the United States as a confederated body of states.

The Constitution was written and adopted to create "a more perfect union" than the one that existed under the Articles. It is very clear from the debates at the convention and the subsequent ratifying conventions (which took place in the states) that a strong central government was greatly feared by the overwhelming majority of the founders (though there are some notable exceptions).

Madison, believe that the Constitution alone, was sufficient to restrain the growth of the new confederated/federal (as mentioned earlier these words were used interchangeably) government. Madison argued that the federal government was a creation of the states and he believed the states would be very jealous to maintain their own sovereignty and authority, therefore the states would check the inevitable attempts by the federal authorities to increase their power, and force the fed to stick to the "expressed powers" laid down by the Constitution. Because of this belief by Madison he initially opposed amending the Constitution with a Bill of Rights, but it quickly became clear to him and others that the Constitution would not be ratified without agreeing to a Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights grants nothing to the people. What it does is further restrain a Federal Government that was already very limited by the Constitution. That fact is expressed in the preamble to the Bill of Rights, which says" THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent starts of its institution."

Now lets look at the Amendments. Notice how they are written. They do not grant rights to the people, whose rights come from God, but are written to negate the possibility of the central government from infringing on the rights of the people. Here are a few examples:

1 "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." This amendment says what congress can not do.

2 "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

4 "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Now lets look at my two favourite amendments.

9 "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

10 "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

The men who wrote Constitution understood that it would have to change over time, that is why they put a process into the Constitution that allowed for it's amendment as changes were needed. The Federal Government is NOT supposed to act outside of the "expressed powers" unless it formally amended the Constitution. which is not easy. All that the Federal Government does today that is outside those expressed powers or beyond the amendments that have been added to the Constitution are usurpations.




From: Sky
Sent: Monday, March 08, 2010 3:45 PM
To: Kenith
Subject: RE: Constitution

Thanks Kenny. I hope everyone is learning as much from this little discussion as I. I see your point about the Bill of Rights and I stand corrected. One day when we have a chance, we will have to discuss the second amendment in more detail but I guess it is time to wind this one down.

So do you think it would be safe to summarize by saying that while divided on what was the best course of action for this fledgling Republic, the general consensus was that in order to function and survive the 'centralized' government needed to have more...authority(for lack of a better word)? And that limitations or restrictions needed to be placed on that power in order to insure that some of the shortcomings that they experienced or observed from central powers that they had either lived under or observed, not be repeated. This as opposed to limiting that authority for the sole purpose of retaining a good deal of that power for the individual states. It just seems that these God given rights could as easily be infringed upon by the local governments as the larger one. Could it not be argued that even though not its original intent, the Constitution serves this very important function as well?



From: Sky
Saturday, March 13, 2010 11:08 PM
To: Kenith
Subject: RE: Constitution

Hey Sky,

I too have greatly enjoyed our conversation, its a subject that I think more Americans should consider. The Second Amendment is an interesting topic as well and I would be happy to discuss it some time in the future.

I think your summarization is a good start. The Founders, by the time of the writing of the Constitution, had very recently fought a war (the Revolution was very much a civil war) to throw off a central government that was far away and one of their main objections was that the British Crown was ignoring it's own rules that had been laid down at the founding of the colonies (another interesting topic).

Because of this, most Americans had a strong distrust of a central power over the states, and yet they did see the need for union, to protect themselves from powerful European empires (i.e. England, France, Spain). The Founders believed (probably rightly) that if not united they would be conquered, one by one, by those powers.

Madison, Jefferson, and countless others of the fathers were highly educated men. They knew a great deal about history and political theory. They keenly understood that there is a strong tendency for political power to migrate to the center; they also understood that without union they would be unlikely to maintain independence.

Here is the dilemma for the men who drafted and ratified the Constitution, how to create a union that protected the states from European powers and how to give the new federal or confederate (as I mentioned before the two words are used interchangeable by the founders) government enough power to maintain the union, but not so much that it could usurp the power and sovereignty that still resided with the states or with the citizens of the states. (We don't become U.S. citizens until after the Civil War).

Tyranny could just as easily reside with a state as with the Federal Government, but the states' constitutions had bills of rights to limit them and the people were close to the state governments. They believed the people were close enough to the state governments and could check tyranny there more easily than they could with a central power that was far away. Also a usurping federal government would be far larger, more powerful and more difficult to check if it went bad, than would be a much smaller state government if it went bad.

The Constitution is mostly ignored today (in many matters) but it is still a very useful and important document. Those parts that have grown dusty and are now ignored are still there and they can be revived if the time is right. The Constitution is to many Americans a sacred document. It can bring great change if the American people will begin to read and study it anew. I hope this will happen.

My own views were greatly altered and radicalized to some extent, because one day I decided to read and study these things.