Monday, August 06, 2007

A Note on the "Key Founders":

Folks skeptical of the theistic rationalist theory note that it overemphasizes certain Founders and ignores others. Well, those whom I term the "key Founders," were indeed the key Founders. Let's take the top five: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Franklin. These five represent the first four Presidents (the first four names on the list, like I needed to tell you), the chief architect of the Constitution (Madison), the author of the Declaration (Jefferson), and the majority of the drafting board of the Declaration (Adams, Franklin, and Jefferson). Gregg Frazer adds Hamilton, Wilson, and G. Morris as theistic rationalists. With that addition we have the men who wrote the overwhelming majority of the Federalist Papers (Hamilton and Madison), and the prime players at the Constitutional Convention (Washington, Madison, Franklin, Hamilton, Wilson, and Morris). These also happen to be the men who appear on our currency. So they are the key Founders. Period.

A note on their religious explication. Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin were, without question, theistic rationalists. And we know this because of how they explicitly detailed their religious creed. Concerning Washington, Madison, Hamilton (before 1800 after which he became "born-again"), G. Morris and James Wilson, I've studied their utterances on religion in meticulous detail and I believe the evidence strongly points towards their being theistic rationalists just like Jefferson, Franklin, and Adams unquestionably were. Yet, unlike those three who explicitly detailed their creed mainly in private letters, those five tended to speak about God and religion in more general terms and fewer smoking gun quotations that reject or affirm the tenets of orthodox Christianity exist.

Those five invariably spoke, both publicly and privately, about God in a generic or philosophical way. Such utterances could be consistent with both theistic rationalism or orthodox Christianity. But what does it then say that when Washington, Madison, G. Morris, Hamilton, and Wilson talked about God, they purposefully did so in such a vague and generic way that you couldn't distinguish their creed from either the orthodox Christians' or the theistic rationalists' like Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin? [Keep in mind they lived at a time when one was expected to affirm the tenets of orthodox Christianity and when it was widely known that many in elite Whig circles secretly trafficked in "infidel principles."] Their systematic generic way of speaking about God certainly does nothing to forward the "Christian Nation" thesis as posited by Barton, Federer, and Kennedy.

Regarding what the 200 and some odd Founding Fathers believed in as a whole, whether orthodox Christians or theistic rationalists constituted a statistical majority of the Founders is unknown. All that can be shown is that the overwhelming majority of them, like Jefferson and Franklin, were in some way formally or nominally connected to a Christian Church that professed orthodoxy. John Adams' Congregation was supposed to be preaching orthodox Christian doctrines (New England Congregationalists were of Puritan origin). But by 1750 his Church ministers preached Unitarianism. (The formal creed change didn't occur until the 19th Century; but that's because Unitarians were so anti-creedal, they didn't want to exclude anyone, not the Calvinist Trinitarians, from the Congregational Church. Ultimately, it was the Calvinist Congregationalists who disfellowed themselves from the Unitarians in the early 19th Century.)

And that's why M.E. Bradford's 52 out of the 55 or 50 out of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention were orthodox Christians statistic is bunk. Plenty of folks formally connected to a Christian Church were deists, unitarians, or otherwise not "Christians" in the orthodox Trinitarian sense.

No comments: