Saturday, January 7, 2017

De Levende Minerva van Utrecht

Het boek Eucleria wordt in veel artikelen en boeken die ik inmiddels over dit specifieke onderwerp gelezen heb, opgevat als de verantwoording van Anna Maria van Schurman's radicale keuze tegen de wetenschap en voor de sectarische beweging van Jean de Labadie. Een lezing die mij vanaf het begin niet kan bekoren. Intuitief voel je aan dat er ergens iets niet klopt. Er moet een betere verklaring zijn voor Anna Maria van Schurman's keuze voor Jean de Labadie en een meer inhoudelijke beoordeling van haar verantwoording in het boek Eucleria.

Het zeer lezenswaardige reisverslag van Jasper Danckaerts en Peter Sluyter in Amerika laat zien dat de labadisten wel degelijk aansluiting bleven zoeken bij de gereformeerde kerken. Ook de lovende woorden en correspondentie van Campegius Vitringa, de gerespecteerde hoogleraar uit Franeker, met zowel Jasper Danckaerts als Pierre Yvon, bewijzen dat de 'labadisten' zich wel degelijk, ook wetenschappelijk, bleven ontwikkelen.

Enkele dingen vallen op als je over haar leest. Het feit dat ze op een voetstuk geplaatst wordt door Voetius. Ze mag als een 17de eeuwse Pindar een gedicht schrijven bij de opening van de Universiteit van Utrecht. Ze wordt door Daniel Heinsius, de eerste hoogleraar poezie en politicologie in Leiden, geprezen als de levende Minerva van Utrecht. Ze lijkt vooral een onbereikbaar symbool of Mascotte van het 17de eeuwse burgerschapsideaal te moeten worden.

Tegelijkertijd heeft ze een innige vrienschap met de befaamde theoloog Andre Rivet en zijn nichtje Marie du Moulin. In het verslag dat Marie van het sterfbed van haar oom geeft, wordt ook Anna Maria van Schurman met naam en toenaam genoemd. De vriendschap tussen deze twee lijkt soms enigszins erotische trekjes te vertonen. Marie du Moulin lijkt in ieder geval haar vriendin, via oudtestamentisch realisme uit haar Grieks mythologische dwangbuis, in het hier en nu te willen trekken.

Een vraag die onwillekeurig opkomt als je nadenkt over de periode voorafgaand aan haar radicale keuze voor Jean de Labadie, is waarom ze zo befaamd werd. Wat was haar concrete bijdrage aan het wetenschappelijke debat? Waarom was men zo tot haar aangetrokken?

In plaats van een afrekening met haar verleden, gaf ik er daarom vanaf het begin de voorkeur aan Eucleria als een explicteren van en logisch voortbouwen op haar denken dat zich ontwikkeld heeft in de loop der jaren. Als ze zich voorneemt het voorbeeld van Paulus te volgen, dan resoneert daarin mee haar dichterlijke reputatie als de Minerva van Utrecht. Zelf zou ik liever zeggen, de Pindar van Utrecht. Het dagboek en leiderschap van Jasper Danckaerts doet in dat opzicht dan ook sterk denken aan Eucleria. De nadruk op het vormen van sterke, onafhankelijk, mondige burgers, als voorwaarde voor een stabiele samenleving, deelt ze met Jean de Labadie. De Labadie, voormalig decaan van de Academie in Montauban, formuleerde al in Orange een alternatief tegenover de door Hobbes geformuleerde visie in Leviathan. Haar rol als 'levende minerva' heeft ze haar hele leven willen blijven spelen. Wat dat betreft reflecteert ze precies datgene wat de grondleggers van de eerste universiteiten van Nederland voor ogen stonden. Wat betreft de politieke rol die zij voor zichzelf opeist is er continuiteit en geen breuk wanneer ze zich aansluit bij en uitspreekt voor Jean de Labadie.

Haar Eucleria doet mij dan ook sterk denken aan het boek Life of Lady Grey van de Italiaanse predikant in London, Michelangelo Florio, dat aan het begin van de zeventiende eeuw ook in Nederland gedrukt is (in Zeeland bij Richard Schilders). Bekend is in ieder geval dat Lady Grey een sterke indruk op haar gemaakt heeft. In een passage op bladzijde 52(Hoofdstuk 2 van Eucleria) van haar Eucleria lijkt zij te verwijzen naar Lady Grey als ze over een  bloedgetuiginne spreekt.Tegelijkertijd schijnt dit boek van Michenagelo Florio niet zozeer een biografie te zijn, maar een theologische verdediging van het begrip predestinatie. Het komt mij voor dat Anna Maria van Schurman met Eucleria iets vergelijksbaars beoogt.

In plaats van een afwijzing van wetenschap, is het boek een verdediging van haar opvatting van wetenschap zoals zij die in de loop der tijd ontwikkeld heeft. Een curieuze verwijzing naar Exodus 3:14 in Eucleria kon ik na een eerste lezing niet goed plaatsen. Maar via een studie over De uniciteit van God en de relationaliteit van de mens De relevantie van Augustinus voor de hedendaagse theologie door Maarten Wisse, kwam ik op het spoor van een interessante mogelijkheid. Deze bekende passage uit Exodus 3:14 speelt namelijk een belangrijke rol in het denken van Augustinus. En dat brengt ons bij de controverse rond Descartes die op Nederlandse universiteiten zo'n grote rol gespeeld heeft in de zeventiende eeuw. Brita Rang's schrijft in het boek 'Choosing the better Part' in het artikel 'An exceptional mind' bijvoorbeeld:

'This is not the place to discuss the fact that Van Schurman's friend Colvius exchanged ideas with
Descartes about similarities between 'cogito ergo sum' and a passage in St. Augustine.'

Herlezing van het bewuste hoofdstuk bevestigt mijn vermoeden dat Anna Maria van Schurman zich hier nadrukkelijk mengt in een epistemologische discussie. In plaats van zich terug te trekken of er voor weg te lopen, lijkt haar Eucleria daarom juist een eerlijke en heldhaftige poging van Anna Maria van Schurman om haar positie te bepalen in het debat dat zich rond Descartes heeft ontsponnen, en dat zij daarbij nadrukkelijk aansluit bij Augustinus. In haar Dissertatio benadrukt Anna Maria van Schurman nog het belang van talen, rhetorica, logica en physica voor het bestuderen van de Bijbel. In haar Eucleria rekent ze hier nadrukkelijk mee af. Zou je dit niet ook moeten lezen als een afrekening met de Aristoteliaanse opvatting over filosofie die door Voetius werd aangehangen? Het lijkt erop dat ze tot de conclusie gekomen is dat de Aristoteliaanse filosofie geen afdoend antwoord gaf op de vragen die Descartes stelde en daarom een eigen alternatief antwoord ontwikkelde, waarbij ze nadrukkelijk aansluit bij Augustinus. Het zou volgens Brita Rang mogelijk kunnen zijn dat Anna Maria van Schurman in haar positiebepaling ten opzichte van Descartes, aansluit bij de opstelling van Andre Rivet. Roothaan schrijft dat Anna Maria van Schurman noch als Cartesiaan, noch als Voetiaan kan worden omschreven.

Het loont daarom de moeite voor kenners van het werk van Augustinus en Descartes om de Eucleria eens vanuit deze invalshoek te benaderen. Temeer omdat de invloed van Augustinus op het werk van Descartes, direct of indirect, de afgelopen 50 jaar in Frankrijk een flinke hoeveelheid aandacht gehad heeft(W. O Neill). Etienne Gilson doet een aantal zeer interessante uitspraken in dit verband. Een quote in een boek van Stephen Menn over Descartes & Augustin uit 2002:

Gilson continues to insist that the systematic expression of Descartes' thought, although not its animating spirit, is influenced by Augustine, and by the Augustinianism of Descartes' Oratorian friends: he thinks that Descartes made use of the Oratorians' Augustinian metaphysics, but that he transformed it radically in using it for his own ends.'

Stephen Menn's summarizes:

'Augustinianism is essenetially incomplete, and its value is not in any scientific contributions but precisely in reminding us of the incompleteness of human reason. Augustinian philosoph is valuable for its "spirit", as a discipline of intellectual devotion, but when it lives aside this "spirit" and sets itself up as a precise scientific system, and thus as a rival to Thomism, Gilson is quick to denounce it as a corruption.'

'The conclusion of Gilson and Gouhier, that Descartes' thought is radically anti-Augustinian, follows directly form their interpretation of Augustinianism as a certain "spirit," as Christian devotion expressing itself through reason.'
Dat er een sterke relatie bestaat tussen de volgelingen van Augustinus(de Jansenisten) in Frankrijk en Jean de Labadie is vrij gemakkelijk te achterhalen. Een interessant artikel dat de tegenstellingen en overlap samenvat tussen Jansenisme en Cartesianism: What has Cartesianism to do with Jansenism?

Friday, December 16, 2016

And Surely I Am With You Always

Evidence for the validity of my heuristic tool to reading the Gospel of Matthew proposed in a previous blogpost, can be found by applying it to Matthew 25 as Graham Foster from Dundee explains in this article: The Gospel of Matthew is for the church that Jesus sends out into the world. It's to His Church that He says in Matthew 28:
'And Surely I Am With You Always.'
It's this message that Matthew emphasizes when quoting Isaiah 7 in chapter one, it's this message that Paul hears when Jesus asks him Acts 9:


'Why do you persecute Me?'
And it's also this message that Paul receives in Korinth:


"Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city."


And in Paul's letter to the Romans, chapter 8 we read:


'If God is for us, who can be against us?'
It's precisely these chapters 8 and 9 that discuss exactedly the same topic, election, as which Jesus discusses in his parables in Matthew. The references to Isaiah are very similar. We are reminded of the quotation of Isaiah which Paul gives at the end of Acts:


Go to this people and say,
“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
    you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”
27 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
    they hardly hear with their ears,
    and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’

Same passage quoted by Jesus in answer to the question by his disciples why he speaks to the people in parables:

Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
14“In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says,
         ‘YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND;
         YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIV




Sunday, December 11, 2016

John the Baptist as Deutero-Isaiah

The previous blogpost about Philip's encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch got me thinking about the structure of the book of Acts. The first thing I noticed was the sequence of events. Stephen stoned, Philip's encouter with the Ethiopian eunuch, Paul's encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus.  Peter's encounter with Cornelius. There is an obvious common denominator to these four chapters. It triggered me to rethink the speech of Stephan. The speech talks alot about Joseph and ends with the curious phrase that the Lord Almighty does not live in a man-made home and quotes from chapter 66 of the book of Isaia.

With my previous blogpost freshly in mind I then immediately thought of John the Baptist and his famous self-characterization taken from Isaiah 40:3 'I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness'. If We want to do justice to these words we should not treat them as a self-agrandizing curiosity of an excentric, but as a key to the interpretation of both his own ministry and the understanding of the book of Isaiah. Which means we should place Esaiah 40:3 in its context, which is, to use a popular working concept, Deutero-Isaiah (Isaiah 40-66).

Our 'John the Baptist heuristic' is starting to yield its fruits. John the Baptist is no longer just an excentric voice calling in the wilderness, he is the interpretative key to the book of Isaiah, the gospel of Matthew and the Acts of the Apostle.

Especially the difference in style between the first part of the book of Isaiah and the second part, which starts with the text appropriated by John the Baptist, is what I consider a valuable contribution to the understanding of what John implies when he says 'I am the voice of the one calling in the wilderness'. Let's take this phrase as the interpretative key of Isaiah 40-66 and it becomes the answer to Philip's question to the Ethiopian man in Acts 8 who was reading chapter 53: 'do you understand what you are reading?'

As we return to Stephen's speech, this also reminds of chapters 40-55 of the book of Isaiah while the Exodus event echoes throughout that part of the book as well, as scholars have noted recently according to this article with the curious interpretation:


'Having traced this divinely inspired, creative, and formative development of Israel's foundational salvation event, the Exodus, is it any wonder that when Moses and Elijah appear to our Lord in the Transfiguration, Luke records that the subject of their conversation was our own Lord's impending "exodus"
As in the conversion of the Ethiopian, the understanding of Isaiah plays a key role in Paul's conversion, argues Richard Klaus:

'In this Damascus road experience Jesus reveals to Paul an interpretative key which will open up the Jewish Scriptures to a new orientation'


////

a couple of links.  this study of the influence of Isaiah on/in John's gospel.


Isaiah's New Exodus in Mark


"Argues persuasively that Mark has been profoundly influenced by the book of Isaiah."--Morna D. Hooker, University of Cambridge

Exile in the scriptural quotations of Jesus.

The Apostle Paul as the Isaianic Servant: Paul's Use of Isaiah 49.6 in Acts 13.47

Friday, December 9, 2016

Look, water. What Prevents Me From Being Baptized?

In the previous blogpost I have argued that John the Baptist forms the thread that holds the narrative of the gospel of Matthew together and ensures its coherence. Let's now look at the book of Acts with the heuristic tool we have thus created.

In Acts chapter eight we have the encounter between Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch which has the peculiar sentence that deserves our special attention in this context:
As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?"
There can only be one logical explanation for this phrase and that is that Philip's (one of seven deacons of the church of Jerusalem) explanation of 'the good news about Jesus' included a reference (or: key references) to baptism. The importance of baptism in Philip's preaching might also be inferred from his activities in Samaria( same chapter):
'But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.'
When Peter wrapped up his Pentecost speech the assembled crowd asked him and the other Apostles:
"Brothers, what shall we do?"
Peter's succinct answer was
 "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
The speeches by Peter and  Stephanus that precede the providential encounter between Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch give a reasonably good indication of the central message that was preached in Jerusalem as 'the good news about Jesus'. But the role of John the Baptist in Philip's preaching to the Ethopian eunuch might be inferred also, from the passage Philip had to preach on from Isaiah:

He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
    and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
    Who can speak of his descendants?
    For his life was taken from the earth.”

Which immediately gives us two links to John the Baptist. First(quoted in all four gospels), John the Baptist applied the words of Isaiah(40:3):
"I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord’"
And secondly, John said about Jesus in that immediate context:

"Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world"
And the next day again(same passage in John 1): 

"When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”
The link between the explicit reference to the Ethiopian being an eunuch and the text quoted from Isaiah 53 is pretty straightforward and intentional:
'Who can speak of his descendants?'
Why would anyone, let alone Luke, want to mention that someone had been castrated if that fact had no functional role in the story and message this chapter in the book of Acts wants to convey? Besides, I am convinced nothing is accidental in the gospel. In fact the functional role of this detail becomes clear when we place it in the context of the persecution that had started when Stephanus had been stoned in Jerusalem. The church had been dispersed across Judea and Samaria as we can read in vs 1 of this same chapter(8):

'On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria'
The movement had effectively been castrated, which sounds a lot like the parable of the tenants to which I referred in my previous blogpost:

'Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit'

Instead of a nice anecdote about an excentric, sexually handicapped, foreigner, the terrifying anger that provides the thrust to the narrative of Matthew chapter 21 through 28 fully resonates in this key detail about this Ethiopian convert and thus in his request to be baptized. It's the terrifying breech of the parable of the wedding banquet(Matthew 22):

The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.

That's why this request to be baptized by this excentric, sexually handicapped foreigner, should be read first and foremost as an act of manly defiance by the Church as a whole, of which this man becomes a member through baptism.


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

John's baptism--where did it come from?

Recently, while studying the gospel according to Matthew with a small group of people with the specific focus on the parables, it occurred to me how John the Baptist casts his large shadow over this book. Or, to frame it more positively, John the Baptist is the thread that connects the seemingly disparate elements within its storyline. John the Baptist also fits in the heuristic which I proposed in a previous blogpost, to use the great commission at the end of chapter 28 of Matthew as the key to the book, instead of its Jewish or Greek cultural context. There is an obvious implicit reference to John the Baptist in Jesus' command to baptize all nations.

The fact that John the Baptist is never far from Jesus mind occurred to me when I read chapter 21 vs 25. Jesus asks
“John's baptism--where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?"
The parables that follow should all be read in the context of the recent beheading of John the Baptist by king Herod, as described in chapter 14 where we read the reaction of Jesus and of the people:
When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.
What interests me here isn't finding all kinds of technical references, but His strong emotional reaction to John's beheading both in chapter 14, as quoted above, but also in chapter 21 where His anger is obvious when he asks:

“John's baptism--where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?"

The day before Jesus had overturned the tables of the money changers in the temple quoting Esaiah 56:

"for my house will be called a house of prayer"

...for all nations. A quote that anticipates the two parables that Jesus tells the next day. And just that morning he had cursed the fig tree for not bearing fruit. This same anger flavors the two parables that follow. The first ends with this dreadful phrase:
"Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed"
The second parable ends with the terrifying phrase:
"But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’"
It helps our understanding of these passages when we avoid downplaying the fact that His anger is also a reaction to John the Baptist's recent beheading. We encounter here Jesus not just figuratively immersed in a river of despair, pain and sordidness of our failures. But here we see Jesus, truly God and truly human, immersed literally in the pain and despair and sordid hypocrisy of this disappointing world. Again:
“John's baptism--where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?"
I would answer: both. An answer that reminds us of Matthew 22 where Jesus says:
'give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’
A summarized version of chapter 21 and 22 and the preaching of John the Baptist in Matthew 3:8
"Produce fruit in keeping with repentance."
and not some tribal superstition:
"And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham." 
Jesus implicitly answered his own question about John the Baptist in chapter 21 which triggered the trap question on whether one should pay taxes. The hypocrisy of those who came to trap him with this question only feeds His anger that we saw in chapter 21 and 22. Chapter 23 'Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!' is like the opposite of Matthew 5 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven'. His anger culminates in Chapter 24:

'Do you see all these things? Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.'
Like a boomerang the question of Matthew 21 returns in Matthew 28 and can be paraphrased such:

“Jesus's baptism--where does it come from? Is it from heaven, or of human origin?"
It's actually John who triggered this question when Jesus approached the Jordan river to be baptized, when he tried to deter Jesus, saying(Matthew 3)
"I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Are not Two Sparrows Sold for a Penny?


'Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father's care.'
The temptation to use this well-known metaphor of Jesus in Matthew 10, comparing his disciples to sparrows, as an easy admonition against those who worry about their daily struggle in life, obscures an important structural aspect of the gospel of Matthew in general and chapter 10 in particular. This structural element of the gospel according to Matthew can be found in chapter 28; the great commission:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Chapter 10 of the book of Matthew takes on its meaning within this framework. It is no longer the history of just Jesus appointing disciples and sending them out. Through the metaphor of the twelve apostles, it becomes the story of the church that is thrust into the world.

The discussion of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well comes to mind as a helpful tool to understand what Jesus does not mean when he tells his twelve disciples to not worry here in Matthew 10, and in Matthew 6 where he encourages them, and us, to look at the birds:
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life”
While it is in chapter 4 of Jean that Jesus says to his disciples, and by extension to us:
“I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
Another metaphor that is easily misconstrued into an admonition to worry less about earthly things or at least cast suspicion on those who focus on earthly things like eating, drinking, working and feasting. Or, to translate it into the broad terms that are (again) hotly debated since Trump won the Presidential elections: community, belonging, identity and focus on the common good of society.

But if we place Jean 4 and Matthew 10 in the framework of the great commission, this alleged rejection of earthly joys and earthly delights tilts completely. To be precise, the joy of Jesus wasn't just some obscure inner secret, it was fully based in the here and now:

'Already the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may rejoice together....So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days.'
It's this great commission that gives meaning to the admonition to not worry while participating in that great commission as Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew chapter 19:

'And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.'
The kingdom of heaven is near, literally! As Jesus says in the high priestly prayer:

'My prayer is not that you take them out of the world'
A phrase that, again, takes on its correct meaning within the framework of the great commission. Jesus prayer is that He takes them into the world!


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Pallas

'Pallas, drawn by hand is the glory of our Leiden, And as Goddess, she thinks she is safe because she is painted. A contrast she is to the living Utrecht Minerva; the will of the painted pallas is that she holds the greater power' - Daniel Heinsius

One could also argue that the intellectual content of Pindar's Odes is best seen not as centered around a key idea or motif but as the confrontation, expansion, and reconciliation of various opposed ideas, or "polarities". Thomas K. Hubbard jstor article

Sunday, February 7, 2016

John Kasich Threading the Needle Between Trump & Rubio

When I listened to Tim Scott's endorsement of Marco Rubio as the personification of the American dream it occurred to me how offensive this narrative sounds to those who live the reality of everyday struggle to survive in the United States.



Realize how counterproductive and damaging this narrative is for Marco Rubio if he wants to reach out to the traditional Republican base. It reminded me of a phrase in an excellent analysis of Donald Trump's appeal by Alastair Roberts:
"The American white working class—to which a disproportionate number of evangelicals belong—are well aware that they are hated and pathologized by upper middle class coastal liberals, who dominate key institutions in American life."
Through his extreme realism Donald Trump succeeds in channeling this anger and frustration, while Tim Scott only fuels it with the lie that every American can become a US Senator. History teaches us that a successfull Republican candidate for President will need to find a path that engages both today's realists and today's idealists.

With a little abstraction one can see how the approach proposed by Governor John Kasich could create this path to victory by threading the needle between these two extremes. On the one hand putting the hard work into engaging the voters, with compassion, dedication and fun. In stark contrast to Marco Rubio who visited New Hampshire only a few times until recently. And on the other hand boldly rejecting the harsh rhetoric on immigration reform, and health care reform.

After last night's debate, for which debate coach Todd Graham gave Kasich an A for his balanced performance, it looks increasingly likely that his strategy could pay off. A consistent debate performance from the start in Cleveland with a laser focused strategy built on the premise that Donald Trump would lose Iowa might hand him New Hampsire. Could the Ohio Governor be the one who will write, in the words of GOP founder Salmon P. Chase, 'Resurgam' on the tombstone of a disintegrating GOP? Several observers in New Hampshire are reporting the first signs that this is indeed the case:






Friday, August 7, 2015

John Kasich Won The Debate

The day had started great after his surprise late entrance into the FOX debate, welcoming his fellow debate participants in his home state of Ohio, the birthground of the Republican party, with these words:
"I am glad to welcome my fellow debate participants to our great state" 
And it got even better, he won that debate!




Perfect timing, perfect location and perfect rhetorical balance. I wouldn't be surprised to see John Kasich take his candidacy all the way to the 2016 RNC in Cleveland Ohio. I hadn't noticed it till today, but John Kasich is actually THE candidate that has a potential of beating Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Mike Huckabee, both in Iowa and New Hampsire. As others drop, he moves up(Clark Judge). He emerged as a top tier candidate. He made Ted Cruz look Effete (Camille Paglia). An undecided Republican said "John Kasich is crushing it tonight. He'll see a huge bump tomorrow." He was the 'big winner' (John Kraushaar, National Journal). But people are still figuring out why. The answer is actually quite simple. He was able to appeal in an authetic way to both moderates and compassionate conservatives at the same time. Which is a rare accomplishment. A surprise to everyone.



He has been compared to John Huntsman, but he is actually a much more viable candidate because of his authentic appeal to traditional Republicans. As NPR writes:
'His parents became more conservative and eventually joined an Episcopal church. Then, in 1987, they were killed by a drunken driver while pulling out of Burger King after a coffee run. That accident spurred Kasich on his faith journey, as he detailed in Every Other Monday. He described how he had gathered a Bible study group that had been his rock for more than two decades. Kasich now attends an Anglican church.'

I disagree with William A. Galston of the Brookings Institute who writes:
'Overall, however, the debate did little to expand the appeal of the Republican brand. With the exception of Bush’s advocacy of immigration reform, the candidates offered little that would make their party more palatable to the portions of the electorate—especially women, young adults, and minorities—where they have struggled in recent presidential elections.'
Exactedly on those core issues John Kasich succeeded in linking them to his convictions in a convincing way. As several observers noted:
Rob Frost, Chairman of  the Cuyahoga County Republican Party (Cleveland) said this (audio) after the debate:
"John Kasich showed tonight that he is the strongest conservative with the broadest appeal and that he is ready to lead the United States."
Ed Lee, senior director of debate in the Barkley Forum Center for Debate Education at Emory University, wrote on the CNN website:
"I expect Kasich's poll numbers to skyrocket after this performance."
His performance suggests he could be a serious alternative to Jeb Bush.(Linda Killian WSJ) Forget Trump: John Kasich is the real dark horse Jeb Bush should be worried about(Josh Voorhees, Slate July 10th),  and Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig(New Republic) made an accurate prediction when she wrote: John Kasich’s Compassionate Christianity Could Raise Hell in the GOP Primary(july 21st).  "John Kasich seems to understand why he is running and how it fits within the Republican consensus"(Henry Olsen, National Review June 23). When he dropped out of the primaries in 1999 he himself said "Iowa and New Hampshire haven't seen the last of John Kasich"

He was right!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Barbeyrac's Practical Leadership of the Polarized Huguenot Diaspora

This blogpost is my initial attempt to piece together the ideological background of Jean Barbeyrac, a thinker I discovered through my focus on the emergence of Glasgow and the important role it played in forming presbyterian ministers from England, Scotland and Ireland after the 1707 Act of Union. The correspondence between Gershom Carmichale and Jean Barbeyrac takes on increased meaning in the context of the emergence of the presbyterian church in America around that same period. My first thoughts and collection of sources for further investigation and creative reflection. Some information on his family background can be read in the Nobiliaire universel de France. Fabrizio Lomonaco writes in the Berlin Refuge, 1680-1780: Learning and Science in European Context:
'However, Barbeyrac deviated from leaders of the Huguenot party - such as Jean Claude and Pierre Jurieu-, through his intention to re-examine the problem of freedom of conscience in the light of natural law.'
'Jean Lecler, Locke's closest disciple and the principal early carrier of his ideas into continental discussion.' Barbeyrac declared that he agreed with the theses of his friend Le Clerc and quotes in particular Parhassia which contains 'Pensées sur la nécessité et su la manière d'étudier, pour les personnes qui ne font pas profession de lettres.' (This book is mentioned in the context of the thought of Jean Jacques Rousseau as well.) I disagree however with Lomonaco when he says that the dominant feature of Barbeyrac's work is juridical and not theological. Mark Goldie & Robert Wokler, in their history of 18th century political thought, cut to the core when they write:
'In attempting to meet the challenge of the French king's assertion of a right to sovereignty over his subjects' religious beliefs, Huguenot opinion had polarised.'
And propose Barbeyrac as the mediator between the two extreme positions of Jurieu and Bayle:
'The focus of these debates was conscience. Barbeyrac's importance lay in analysing this concept in order to rebut Bayle's scepticism and reach a more prudent political standpoint than Jurieu's.'
Tim Hochstrasser makes the same argument in his article 'The claims of conscience: Natural law theory, obligation, and resistance in the Huguenot diaspora'. This reconciliatory approach reminds immediately of the reconciliatory aims of Antoine Barbeyrac, Jean's father, in a january 1688 sermon on Corinthians 13:13. In this sermon Antoine Barbeyrac wades into the 'french prophet' debate alluded to by the Jesuite historian Leon Ménard in his history of Nimes like this:
'Tels furent les torts du monarque; ils n'auraient peut-etre pas suffi pour exciter la guerre civile, mais les ministres protestants exilés ne purent pardonner au gouvernement qui les avait bannis. il firent jouer tous les ressorts d'un aveugle fanatisme. Desécoles de prophétie s'éleverent; on osa prédire la chute de l'église catholique et la ruine de la monarchie francaise; des émissaires soudoyés soulèrent les peuples;...'
His father subsequently presided over the important conference of March 23 1688 in Lausanne to determine how to find places of refuge elsewhere. When Antoine Barbeyrac died in 1690 and his mother in 1691, Jean survived on funds for refugees in Lausanne.
Raúl Pérez Johnston agrees with Tim Hochstrasser that Barbeyrac's Huguenot affiliations are underappreciated in the quest towards the understanding of his thought. Johnston argues
 'that one of the keys to understanding the particular trajectory of their thought was the position they occupied in the Huguenot Refuge, who had sought to define the social space that could be allocated to rights of conscience under absolutist rule'
On the one hand I agree with Tim Hochstrasser that Jean Barbeyrac needs to be 'securely sited within the context of Huguenot theology after the diaspora.' On the other hand I disagree with Hochstrasser when he immediately adds 'within whose paradoxes he remained trapped.' The importance of Antoine Barbeyrac's role in his son's education not just as Jean's tutor in Montagnac, but also as a top leader of the Refuge, eloquently illustrated by Antoine's role at the 1688 conference in Lausanne and in the above quoted sermon, has sofar received little to no attention.

Sandra Pott in her book 'Reformierte Morallehren und deutsche Literatur von Jean Barbeyrac'
mentions an anonymous author who sees a direct link between Antoine's sermon on first Corinthians and Jean's writings! Extremely interesting subject indeed. Sandra Pott herself writes:

'In einer Predigt, die er kurz nach der Revokation hält, entfaltet er jenes einfache Christentum als moralische une religiöse basis für die Gemeinde der Flüchtlinge ebenso wie für die Bürger der Stadt Lausanne'
Connecting the development of Jean Barbeyrac's political thought to his father's role in the Refuge might be an important key to understanding the history of Calvinism in the early 18th century. It might very likely uncover the strategic practical goal(s) Barbeyrac aimed to serve. Instead of trapping himself in the paradoxes of Huguenot theology after the diaspora, I see a picture emerging of a refugee aiming to serve the Huguenot Refuge living across Europe under constant threat of expulsion and/or xenophobia, by providing practical leadership. As Mark Goldie & Robert Wokler argue:
'The Lutheran philosopher's work had been adopted as an ally by leading Huguenots in the debates about their perilous situation after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, as is apparent in Gershom Carmichael's Glasgow lectures of teh 1690s and in his edition of Pufendorf's De officio hominis et civis (On the Duties of Man and Citizen). The crucial link was Jean Barbeyrac...'
His book Les Devoirs de l'Homme et Du Citoyen inspired a number of Reformed thinkers in Switzerland and the Netherlands. It was Barbeyrac's 
'Lockeified Pufendorf that continental audiences came to enjoy, and it was to become a central source for the language of 'natural and inalienable rights' that the American and French declarations of human rights later in the century were to solidify'.
That Jean Barbeyrac aimed for practical leadership is confirmed also in the article 'The Natural Jurisprudence of Jean Barbeyrac: Translation as an Art of Political Adjustment' by David Saunders who writes:
'This stance is provoked by the profound challenge that Pufendorf's radical post-Westphalian secularizing of civil authority posed for a Huguenot: how to grant that the state had legitimate authority to regulate all external conduct, but at the same time preserve an inviolable moral space for the exercise of individual conscience.'
Janet Glenn Grey wrote the article 'reformed protestant academies impact life in Berlin' in which she writes that several pastors and teachers at Berlin's Collège Francais were graduates of the Academy of Saumur, for example Pastor Jacques Abbadie and pre-Enlightenment figues Jacques Lenfant and Issac de Beausorbe. Here she investigates the content of the curriculum at the Academy of Saumur which impacted the French University in Berlin through the Huguenot diaspora. She writes:
'Calvin saw to it that a statement on eduction was included in Geneva's new ecclesiastical ordinances of 1541 which says: ...that we establish a college to instruct the children to prepare them for both the ministry and civil government'
Would William Penn have met some of these pastors in Berlin as fellow students when he studied in Saumur himself?

Puffendorf's Law of Nature and Nations with notes by Barbeyrac appears among a list of books proposed by Madison's committee purchased for the library(..) is printed as it appeared in the journal of the continental Congress. Craig Yirush in his book on the roots of early American political theory writes:

 'The Impact that Barbeyrac's editorial interventions had on the reception of natural law theory in the Anglo-American world in the eighteenth century remains to be studied.'
And :

'Barbeyrac was particularly concerned in drawing the reader's attention to the superiority of Locke's theory of resistance as well as his theory of property over those of Pufedorf.'

Barbeyrac's book 'An Historical and Critical Account of the Science of Morality; and the Progress it has Made in the World..' owned by Thomas Jefferson.

Andrew Fitzmaurice thinks 
'Like so many seventeenth-century natural law writers, Barbeyrac lived with the instability and danger caused by the Reformation and he sought the principles of a political order that would address those troubles.'
The introduction into the Refuge litterature might be a valuable resource as well. The book on Henri de Mirmand is certainly a must read to get a feel of the atmosphere and context in which Barbeyrac wrote his book. Many of the major players, like Charles Brousson and even Jean Claude have a link to Nîmes.