Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Lillback Roll:

I know I'm on a roll with all of these Glenn Beck/Peter Lilback posts today. Let me explain why I'm paying so much attention. I've put in a great deal of time reading Peter Lillback's book "George Washington's Sacred Fire" and analyzing its arguments. I'm probably one a handful of folks who has actually gotten through the entire 1200 pages, footnotes and all. And I've certainly (as far as I know) written more about that book than any other living person (which obviously excludes Lillback himself).

I've thought about trying to publish an actual in print scholarly review of the book somewhere, but figured that my "self publishing" in the form of blogging is sufficient.

But with the recent amazing Glenn Beck/Amazon thing, I'm not going to ignore this new wave of attention the book gets.

For those who don't know, I have concluded that Lillback (easily) demonstrates Washington was not a strict Deist (that is one who believes in an absentee landlord God), but does not prove GW was an "orthodox Trinitarian Christian" as the book purports to prove. And that's because the record shows that GW was not a strict Deist but does not demonstrate him an "orthodox Trinitarian Christian."

Because Washington's own words (in 20,000 pages of them found here) do not prove him an orthodox Christian, Lillback attempts to prove GW's "orthodoxy" through his membership in the Anglican/Episcopalian Church.

But that is one very complicated dynamic that raises more questions than it answers. Washington systematically avoided communion in that church. One possible explanation is GW, like the other the deistic and unitarian minded church members, didn't believe in what that act represents: Christ's Atonement. That's what GW's own minister, James Abercrombie, concluded.

Lillback, rather, argues it was because Washington had problems with the Church's Tory hierarchy. No doubt, GW and the other Anglican Whigs did. But that only proves that Washington et al. were in rebellion not only against Great Britain but the very doctrine of their church.

So why the Hell didn't they just exit the Anglican Church for the Baptists or Presbyterians, good orthodox denominations that didn't teach submission to the King as a theological duty? The only explanation is that they had a social or "club membership" attachment to Anglicanism which is exactly the point scholars who argue George Washington's deism make: He belonged to a church for social reasons while not believing in its religious teachings.

1 comment:

Brad Hart said...


I've read somewhere that Abercrombie was also a member of the Society of the Cincinnati. I'm not sure how true that is, since the society mostly consisted of war vets, and if Abercrombie was a loyalist he probably wouldn't be a member.

Do you know anything about this?