One of the major points of contention in the discussion of America’s Christian foundation is found in a reference that John Adams made to the “general principles of Christianity.” Those who support the idea that America was founded on Christian principles often present this statement as evidence in their favor, while those who disagree with them usually respond by pointing to the context of the statement as evidence for their position. Unfortunately, most of those discussing Adams’ statement seem to be operating under the impression that it was made in a vacuum. In this article, I will attempt to provide a full analysis of Adams’ letter and demonstrate that when we consider all of the variables in their proper order, it becomes clear that this letter supports the claim that America was founded on principles that are unique to Christianity.
Ever since the Constitution was first submitted for ratification, the final clause in Article VI has been a matter of strong contention among Americans. That clause, known as the religious test clause, simply states that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” It is frequently claimed that this clause represents the desire of the founding fathers to keep religion out of the government and to establish a secular nation. But is that really how this phrase was intended to be used?
Recently, a friend of mine asked me for my thoughts on Dr. Wayne Grudem's article answering objections to voting for Donald Trump. Dr. Grudem responded to 11 objections and then wrote a lengthy comparison of the proposed policies of Trump and Hillary followed by an appeal for Christians to "seek what is best for the nation." I read Dr. Grudem's article and jotted down the following thoughts in response to his answers:
One of the most influential books during the American founding era was the book The Spirit of the Laws by the Baron of Montesquieu, and as is the case with most of the ancient philosophers, most Americans have never read Montesquieu's work. This has become especially evident in the current dispute over the President's claim that the religion of Islam played a significant role in the formation of our nation. Many historians have agreed with the President on this point, but if the founders of our nation were even half as influenced by Montesquieu as historians claim that they were, then it would be nearly impossible for them to have accepted Islam as a good foundation on which to build a nation. In The Spirit of the Laws, Montesquieu concluded "that a moderate government is most agreeable to the Christian religion, and a despotic government to the Mahometans," and then he defended that conclusion with this analysis:
Contrary to popular opinion, Benjamin Franklin was a Christian who thought that the Bible was "the most faithful of all Histories." In fact, Franklin thought so highly of the Bible that he argued in the Constitutional Convention that "We should remember the character which the Scripture requires in rulers, that they should be men hating covetousness." In 1788, Franklin wrote a letter to the Federal Gazette in which he used the example of the government of ancient Israel to defend the newly written Constitution of the United States. Franklin makes several observations in this piece which serve as unquestionable evidence of the fact that he was a sincere Christian. Here is the text of Franklin's letter:
In recognition of the Fourth of July, I was invited to discuss the faith of our founders on the Deeper Waters podcast. The audio from the podcast is now available online, and I would like to invite all my readers to listen to it. It was a two hour broadcast, so we were able to cover a lot of topics. I've included a mostly accurate rundown of topics below if you want to jump to a few in particular.
On March 25, 2014, Judge Quarles of the U.S. District Court of the District of Maryland (and a Republican appointee) issued an injunction forbidding the commissioners of Carroll County from opening their sessions with prayers invoking the name of Jesus Christ. Judge Quarles reasoned that the commissioners are guilty of advancing one particular religion to the detriment of all others. The problem with Judge Quarles’ injunction is that it is itself a direct violation of a previous ruling from the Supreme Court.
In recent years, I have been blessed with the opportunity to become actively involved in our nation's political system. I've been given opportunities to work for a few campaigns, write for a couple of political action groups and just generally do a few minor things here and there to make a difference. In the process of all this, I was astonished to meet with opposition from other Christians, and I soon learned that there are a significant number of Christians who sincerely believe that we should not be involved in the government in any way at all.
I was reading through the records of the Continental Congress yesterday when I came across a letter written by Elias Boudinot to his 18 year old daughter, Susan. At the time that this letter was written, Boudinot was the President of the Congress. The war with England was coming to a close, and within six months, Boudinot would sign the Treaty of Paris to bring about the official end of the Revolutionary War. In the years following, Boudinot was elected to the first Congress where he helped frame the Bill of Rights. Many people are familiar with Boudinot’s statement that:
Yesterday, as I sat at home enjoying a day off because of the snow, a friend of mine sent me a link to an article by Richard Carrier entitled “Christianity Was Not Responsible for American Democracy.” This article was intended to be included in the 2010 book The Christian Delusion edited by John Loftus, but was instead published on the book’s accompanying website. Carrier’s claims sparked a lot of interest among atheists, and he was asked to give a speech on this topic at the 2013 convention of the National Atheist Party. Carrier later published the transcript of that speech on his blog under the title of “That Christian Nation Nonsense (Gods Bless Our Pagan Nation).” And it is rumored that he will be publishing similar material in Loftus’ next book Christianity is not Great which is slated to be published at the end of this year. I will eventually be writing a point-by-point critique of Carrier’s claims, but I would like to take just a moment to point out some of the more obvious flaws in his position which show that he is just as wrong in this area of historical research as he is in denying the existence of Jesus.
Bill Fortenberry is a Christian philosopher and historian in Birmingham, AL. Bill's work has been cited in several legal journals, and he has appeared as a guest on shows including The Dr. Gina Show, The Michael Hart Show, and Real Science Radio.
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"Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning." (Proverbs 9:9)