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Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Faith of the Father of our Country

One of the favorite lies secularists love to tell in their efforts to undermine belief in America's Christian heritage (and by extension confidence that America should retain Christian values) is that the Founders were not Christians. We usually hear that most were deists.

I think I've provided more than ample evidence over the course of this weekend's BATS posts that these suppositions are complete fallacy, but I'd like to take a closer look at this claim in order to expose it's complete falsity.

The dictionary defines "deism" as "a movement or system of thought advocating natural religion, emphasizing morality, and in the 18th century denying the interference of the Creator with the laws of the universe."

Since Christians believe that God not only created the laws of the universe, but has been actively involved in those laws and the affairs of humans from the Garden of Eden to Christ's death for humans on the cross and will be involved to the very end as prophesied by the book of Revelation and other eschatological references, deism is incompatible with Christianity.

Let's take a look at just one of the Founders to see if these claims hold up.

Was George Washington a deist or a Christian?

When Washington was approached in 1779 by the Delaware Indians who wanted their children to be taught in American schools, he told them: in 1779

You do well to wish to learn our arts and our ways of life and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do everything they can to assist you in this wise intention.

The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, written by Benjamin Morris in the 19th Century and published by American Vision, says of Washington on page 338
He had no taste for war or desire for military glory. “My first wish,” said he, “is to see the whole world in peace..."

I saw this appreciation for peace from the General of the American Revolution when I visited Mount Vernon in October 2007. Washington had a weather vane in the shape of a dove (a symbol of peace) specially built for his Mt. Vernon home. Washington was not a man who enjoyed war, but obviously from his military service recognized that it was sometimes necessary in pursuit of things life freedom and safety.

The Christian Life also tells us about some of Washington's regulations for the Continental Army which he commanded. On page 338-339:
Art. 2.—It is earnestly recommended to all officers and soldiers diligently to attend divine service...and all officers who shall behave indecently at any place of divine worship shall, if commissioned officers, be brought before a general courtmartial, there to be publicly and severely reprimanded...

Washington would not even condone profanity from his subordinates. From page 339:
ART. 3.—Any non-commissioned officer or soldier who shall use any profane oath or execration shall incur the penalties expressed in the foregoing article...

He commanded that the ships of the navy have chaplains on board to ensure (page 339) that
divine service be performed in a solemn and reverent manner twice a day, and a sermon preached on Sunday, unless bad weather or other extraordinary accidents prevent it; and that they come all, or as many of the ship’s company as can be spared from duty, to attend every performance of the worship of Almighty God.

A general order issued by General Washington on July 9, 1776 says
"General Washington hopes and trusts that every officer and man will endeavor to live, and act, as becomes a Christian soldier defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country. To the distinguished character of Patriot it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian."

In President Washington's inaugural address, he said
...it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes...No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States...the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained...resorting once more to the benign Parent of the Human Race in humble supplication that, since He has been pleased to favor the American people with opportunities for deliberating in perfect tranquillity...so His divine blessing may be equally conspicuous in the enlarged views

This statement leaves no doubt whatsoever that George Washington not only believed in God, but believed he was listening to our prayers and supplications, and was actively involved in the affairs of men.

Consider also the language of George Washington's thanksgiving proclamation:
WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour...all unite in rendering unto Him our fincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the fignal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpofitions of His providence in the courfe and conclufion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have fince enjoyed...for all the great and various favours which He has been pleafed to confer upon us.

Again, Washington sounds thoroughly convinced not only in God's existence, but in His willingness to interfere in the affairs of men--indeed, Washington says God has already done so, before and during the American Revolution.

When I visited Mt. Vernon a few months ago, I saw Washington's tomb. He was originally interred in a small family tomb, but left instructions in his will for a larger tomb for himself and his wife Martha. His will laid out the exact specifications for the tomb, and he was moved there after it was completed.

I noticed on the back wall of the tomb an inscription:

I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord. He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die
St. John XI 25,26.


Why would a deist, who doesn't believe God cares about men or their affairs, have had a verse not only referring to Jesus Christ, but to the resurrection promised by Jesus Christ, on his tomb?

When historian Jared Sparks was seeking information about George Washington's religious beliefs, and specifically whether he was indeed a Christian, Washington's adopted daughter Nelly Custis-Lewis wrote him a letter in which she said
He attended the church at Alexandria when the weather and roads permitted a ride of ten miles [a one-way journey of 2-3 hours by horse or carriage]...I should have thought it the greatest heresy to doubt his firm belief in Christianity. His life, his writings, prove that he was a Christian. He was not one of those who act or pray, "that they may be seen of men" [Matthew 6:5]. He communed with his God in secret [Matthew 6:6]...

Is it necessary that any one should certify, "General Washington avowed himself to me a believer in Christianity?" As well may we question his patriotism, his heroic, disinterested devotion to his country.

I visited Mount Vernon and the Alexandria, Virginia area about six months ago, and I remember the distance between Washington's church and Mt. Vernon. Today, on a modern highway, it's only a few minutes. However, 200 years ago, in a carriage over a dirt path, it would have been a considerable journey to make, there and back, each Sunday.

I also seem to recall, though I can't at the moment verify the reference, that Washington often avoided taking communion because he did not want people to think he was taking it for show or for political gain.

Those who claim George Washington was not a Christian are either profoundly uninformed, or are intentionally deceptive. Either way, they make this profession to their own disrepute and shame.



*The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, by Benjamin Morris, Published May 2007 by American Vision. Excerpts reprinted by written permission of the publisher.


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