Saturday, February 26, 2011

John Fea Updates With Grizzard on "The Daily Sacrifice":

Dr. Fea updated his original post. I'm reproducing this because too many folks still believe "The Daily Sacrifice" is valid. It is not.

UPDATE: Several of the comments on my article have challenged my assertion that Washington did not mention Jesus Christ in his personal and public writings. These commentators appeal to the multiple references that they say Washington made to Jesus Christ in a "Prayer Journal" from 1752. Unfortunately, most reputable scholars, including Frank Grizzard Jr., a former senior editor of the George Washington Papers, believe that this journal was not written by George Washington. I would ask readers to consult Grizzard's book "The Ways of Providence: Religion and George Washington."

In that book, Grizzard writes (p. 51): "On April 21, 22, 23, 1891, there was sold at the auction rooms of Thomas Birch's sons, 1110 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, a collection of Washington relics owned by Washington descendants Lawrence Washington, Bushrod C. Washington, Thomas B. Washington, and J.R.C. Lewis. Included in the sale was 'The Daily Sacrifice,' a twenty-four page manuscript document written in a pocket memorandum book and subsequently circulated as 'Washington's Prayers,' 'Washington's Prayer Book,' or 'Washington's Prayer Journal.' The catalog of the sale was prepared by Philadelphia auctioneer Stan V. Henkels, who asserted that the manuscript was not only in Washington's own handwriting, written when the future Father of His Country was about twenty years of age, but that Washington even composed the prayers himself. Both claims are patently false. The prayer book had been among a group of papers already rejected by the Smithsonian Institute as having no value, and at the time of the sale others continued to challenge its authenticity. Tens of thousands of genuine Washington manuscripts have survived to the present, including many from the youthful Washington, and even a cursory comparison of the prayer book with a genuine Washington manuscript reveals that they are not the same handwriting. Nevertheless, the prayers continue to be disseminated under Washington's name, thanks to their publication in the early twentieth century by William Herbert Burk (1867-1933) as 'Washington's Prayers' (Norristown, PA, 1907) and later republication by William Jackson Johnston in 'George Washington: The Christian'."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

John Fea on GW & Religion on AOL:

AOL picked up John Fea's op ed on whether George Washington was a Christian. See it here. It's got 1500 comments already. Alas, too many of them seem imbibed in Christian Nationalist "phony quotation" land (i.e., "it's impossible to govern the world without God and the Bible" and the Daily Sacrifice).

I stopped by and tried to respond to a few of them. But there are too many stones to try to push up the hill, in a sisyphean sense.

Update: Here is a comment I left there.

BTW, at American Creation we are friends with Dr. Fea. If you WANT to continue the conversation on GW's religion AFTER AOL has long forgotten about it, check out:

Likewise I have meticulously read all of the extant primary sources on GW and religion and am happy to answer your questions via email (

My own conclusions are similar to Dr. Fea's: No question GW was a "theist" not a "strict deist" believing in a warm Providence, but was not provably "Christian" in the orthodox Trinitarian, accepted Jesus as Lord & Savior/Finished Work on the Cross, accepted the Bible as inerrant/infallible sense.

Further, from reading GW's two letters to the UNCONVERTED NATIVES that speak of God as "the Great Spirit" and letter to the Jews that speaks of God as Jehovah, and letter to the Freemasons that speaks of God as "the Great Architect" I am convinced GW believed all good men of all religions worshipped the same God.

Finally, The Daily Sacrifice Prayer and "it's impossible to govern the world without God and the Bible" quote are not valid. At least not confirmed in the primary sources.


Jon Rowe, Esq. JD, MBA, LL.M.
Yardley, PA

Associate Professor
Mercer County Community College
Trenton, NJ

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Revolutionary Christianity:

[What follows is a modified version of an email I sent to an historian.]

Whether a revolutionary mentality is compatible at all with social conservatism and traditional Christianity is seriously disputed. I don't think the Tea Party types are aware, however.

Revolutionary thought did present itself under the auspices of Christianity. But it's not clear whether the Right or (social gospel) Left wing liberation theologians are true heirs to revolutionary Christianity. Lino Graglia once cynically remarked:

"What [the Declaration of Independence] is, of course, is a document meant to justify revolution -- that is, illegal action. Having no human law to rely on -- being in defiance of authority -- revolutionaries necessarily come to rely on the law of God, who, happily, rarely issues a protest."

There is a profound truth here. Marx's atheism can't rally the poor and working class to economic revolution. Paul E. Sigmund, Prof. Emeritus at Princeton, is one of the foremost Locke scholars AND scholar of Latin American liberation theology. I'm pretty sure he's a liberal Christian who supports the social Gospel cause (I've informally chatted with him on a number of occasions at Princeton). He's friendly with Robert P. George's conservative bunch and Sigmund seems pretty anti-atheist in his sentiments because he realizes you need God to support his politics. Those Marxist Latin American revolutionaries are/were theists who call themselves Christians.
John Fea's Christian Nation Book:

I placed my order for it over the weekend. You can preview the book here. Fea graciously thanks me (and Ray Soller) on page xix.
The Unconfirmed Phony Quotations:

They just won't die. Rational rant has the details.
The Language of Liberty:

The title of a book by JCD Clarke published in 1994.

Unfortunately I can only see the "preview" which means I might have to buy it. It covers a lot of the political-theological subject matter that American Creation has delved into over the years.

The book gets interesting around p. 335 when it discusses the theological heterodoxy of the singers of the DOI.

Likewise with Calvinism, we have Calvin himself teaching, like a proto-Tory, unconditional submission to tyrants, and that lower magistrates who want to check tyrants may do so only within the confines of the extant positive law. But later Calvinists seemed more generous in their understanding of the privilege to resist tyrants. Likewise all the various orthodox Churches had currents within them that wanted to "reform" Protestantism OUT of orthodox Trinitarianism. The New England Congregationalists actually did this and became Unitarian churches. But, again, those currents existed in all the churches, including the Presbyterians.

Unitarian Presbyterianism was much bigger in England (Joseph Priestley was a Presbyterian minister). But it did exist in America. The book on page 353-54 states they haven't determined the degree of "Christological heterodoxy" among the colonial Presbyterians. But it seems unlikely that it didn't get smuggled over into the colonies from Great Britain. And it does mention Rev. Samuel Hemphill as one notable Presbyterian heretic. He was tried for heterodoxy and defended by none other than Ben Franklin in Franklin's classic "Dialog Between Two Presbyterians."

And that tract is a clear explication of the non-Trinitarian "rational Christianity" in which the "key Founders" seemed imbibed.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Modified Version of Reagan's Joke.

I'm rewriting a joke that Ronald Reagan used to tell to make it more ecumenical. This joke actually tests ecumenical tolerance among orthodox Christians. If you find it funny, you are tolerant (as Reagan was). If the joke offends you, then you aren't tolerant, ecumenically.

As originally told by Reagan, it was between Cardinals and the Pope. In my version, Billy Graham makes a conference call with the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and head of the Orthodox Church. Billy says, "guys, I have good news and bad news. First, the good news: Jesus has returned." The others, shocked, say, "that's fantastic, what bad news could there possibly be?" To which Billy responds, "He made His return in Salt Lake City."

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Chris Rodda on Her AOL-Huff-Po Connection:

Here. A taste:

I had no idea that my whole life was about to change one day when I signed onto AOL to read my email. On days when I wasn't too busy, I would usually read a few of the news stories on AOL when I signed on to check my mail, and one of the stories that day was about ex-Judge Roy Moore's infamous Ten Commandments monument in the Alabama courthouse. Having a little time to kill, I decided to click on the link to the message board about the story, something I had never done before. Little did I know when I decided to click on that link that I was about to discover a whole new version of American history, or that six months later I'd be writing a book about it.


Before long, other people who were battling the lies on the AOL message boards began emailing me posts from the both the Ten Commandments board and other related boards, asking me whether or not they were true. Apparently, these people had gotten the impression from my now quite lengthy, footnoted posts that I was some sort of expert on the subject. I wasn't -- at least not yet -- but I did know enough to be able to answer most of these emails, even if it was only to tell someone where they could find the information they needed to disprove whatever lie they were trying to disprove. Between writing my own posts on the boards and answering emails, what had begun as a simple click on an AOL message board link had become somewhat of a "calling" that I was spending several hours a day on.

From time to time over the next few months, someone on the message boards would respond to one of my posts by saying that I should write a book. While I appreciated the compliment, I didn't take the idea very seriously -- at least not at first. For one thing, I was was sure that there must already be plenty of books on the subject, written by people far more qualified than I was to write about it. When I tried to find such a book, however, I couldn't. I found a few books that refuted the lies to some degree, but none providing the amount of information or level of detail I was including in my message board posts. At this point, the idea of writing a book was beginning to seem a little less crazy, and when I half-jokingly mentioned the idea to a few of my real life friends, I was surprised to find that they didn't think it was crazy at all. So, never having written anything before, with the exception of posts on AOL message boards, and having no particular qualifications to write a history book, I found myself writing a history book.

Fast forward to 2006. What had started out as a plan to spend a few months writing a short book debunking the historical myths and lies floating around the internet had become a much bigger project than I had anticipated. My little book, titled Liars For Jesus (after a phrase coined on the old Compuserve message boards to describe Christians who will make up or lie about anything for the sake of their religion), had evolved from a short single volume into what will eventually be a three-volume series (I'm still working on Volume 2). There were just too many lies to cover in one book. These lies were everywhere -- on the internet, in the books of pseudo-historians like David Barton, in debates in Congress, and even in the opinions of Supreme Court justices.
The Muslim Biblical Argument For Why Jesus is Not God:

Muslims are a bit like Mormons: They both believe in the divine inspiration of the Old and New Testaments, but add a third Holy Book which is the lens through which they read the prior two. And those third Holy Books were both supposedly revealed by Angels as well: Gabriel in the case of the Muslims and Moroni for the Mormons.

Likewise, Christianity did to Judaism what Mormonism and Islam did to Christianity. Christianity adds an additional Holy Book to Judaism but makes their final Holy Book the lens through which the first is to be read. Reading the Old in light of the New renders a RADICALLY different meaning to SOME OT texts as compared to the traditional Jewish interpretation.

I'll give one (of potentially NUMEROUS) example(s). Many orthodox Christians believe Jesus, as Word of God, is the ONLY mouthpiece between God and man. "Jehovah" as it were, is not just "The Father," but rather Triune in His Nature. That is, Jesus is "Jehovah" as much as the Father and Holy Spirit are. So all of those instances where Jehovah speaks to and interacts with man in the Old Testament really involve JESUS or the 2nd Person in the Trinity speaking to man, NOT the Father. That means when the Jews rejected Jesus as God, they rejected the very Jehovah who revealed the Old Testament. The irresistible logic is that Jews and orthodox Christians worship different gods. (Non-ecumenical orthodox Christians who believe this would note the Jews worship the false god of the Pharisees, not the TRUE God of the Bible.)

Now, I know there are different ways to interpret the Bible. But one canard I won't stand for is "Jews and Christians worship the same God, Muslims a different one." Every single argument that supposedly shows Muslims worship a different god can be tweaked to show Jews and Christians worship different gods. No they either all worship the same God -- some ecumenical God of Abraham with the pieces of the furniture rearranged (as Tom Van Dyke once put it) (and we'll find out whose cosmic interior design plan was the RIGHT one when we die) -- or they all worship different gods.
What Kind of "Christian" Was Dietrich Bonhoeffer?

If you didn't know, Dietrich Bonhoeffer lead the "Christian resistance" against Hitler in Nazi Germany and was martyred for it.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer relates to American Creation's mission for a variety of reasons. We've discussed Romans 13 and the reductio "does that mean Christians have to submit to Nazi government?" And then there's the dynamic of folks wanting to claim someone who history judges as a great hero as "one of them." Evangelicals are certainly guilty of this, but no more so than any other social group. And at American Creation we -- or at least I -- highlight when evangelicals (and others) do that with America's Founding Fathers.

With that evangelical Eric Metaxas has done this with Dietrich Bonhoeffer. And now some of his fellow evangelicals are calling him out for it.

See here, here and here.

A few points I get from the reviews on what Eric Metaxas does not adequately deal with: 1) Like a lot of his fellow contemporary German intellectuals, DB's "Christian theology" was imbibed in German post modern philosophy (indeed the very philosophy that led Heidegger to support Nazism). And 2) Bonhoeffer did not believe the Bible was the inerrant, infallible Word of God. Well there you go, that explains how his hermeneutic could get around an "absolute" reading of Romans 13.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

John Fea on the American Revolution & Concept of Just War:

Outstanding article from Dr. Fea here. If one is some kind of orthodox Christian and a non-American, a British or Canadian citizen, for instance, one might scratch one's head at the attempts of Christian Americanists -- the sophistry and mental gymnastics they have to go through -- to reconcile everything about the American Founding with their creed.

A taste:

... But in the 1770s, cases for war against England failed to conform to classic Christian arguments used to support what we commonly refer to today as a "just war." In fact, just war arguments, often associated with historic church leaders such as Augustine and Aquinas, were rarely if ever employed by Revolutionary-era Protestant ministers and were certainly not employed by the founding fathers.


... John Wesley, the famed 18th-century English evangelical, could not understand why the colonists demanded more liberty than they already possessed as members of the British Empire. The colonists, he wrote, "enjoyed their liberty in as full manner as I do, or any reasonable man can desire."


Was the English government as "tyrannical" as the colonies claimed? And if it was, did the level of tyranny justify armed conflict? After all, Great Britain offered more freedom to the inhabitants of their empire than any other nation in the world.

I'm obviously no fan of King George III, or, for that matter the British Parliament against whom America's Founders rebelled. However, to call them "tyrants" seems a bit of a hyperbolic stretch, unless we accept quasi-anarchist libertarian arguments that ANY government that exceeds libertarian maximums (including those of every single American President) is in fact "tyranny."

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Gary Moore, RIP:

Gary is with Phil now. Now God and the folks in Heaven get to be entertained and moved.

Alexander Hamilton's Creed:

This post recycles claims I've before made on Hamilton. The folks at American Creation seem to disagree on which Founding Father was more important than the others. Some recent comments argue for Hamilton's status as a "key Founder." I would agree but wouldn't put him as more important than any of the first four Presidents because he didn't, well, become President!

As to his creed, no evidence shows he was a "mere Christian" (as CS Lewis would term it, believing in a Triune God, etc.) until after he had done his work Founding America, after his son Philip died in a duel, after his life came crashing down on him.

Hamilton was such a newbie orthodox Christian when he died, he never got around to joining a church and was initially refused communion by both of the orthodox Churches with which he sought communion.

Hamilton always seemed to have been a theist, and like Washington and most other Founders believed in the value of "religion" (which included orthodox Christianity) for its instrumental purposes, the way it facilitated republican virtue. During the later 1790s he did seem to lament the way cold, strict deism headed towards atheism during the French Revolution.

He nonetheless does NOT claim, during those periods, that orthodox Trinitarian Christianity is the only way to God or that this is the only form of "religion" that properly supports republicanism. Hamilton's opinions on the French Revolution and its turn towards irreligiousity seem exactly those of and completely compatible with the militant unitarianian, John Adams'. Note, I do not say this proves Hamilton was a "unitarian" like Adams during this period, just that it does not prove, as some argue (i.e., the Christian America narrative), Hamilton was orthodox during this period or he defended only "real" orthodox biblical Christianity because he was one of "them."

In order to believe in the "Christian America" narrative of Hamilton's orthodox Christianity during the 1790s one has to read in one's desires that do not exist in the historical record.

During the Constitutional Convention, it was rumored, when asked why they didn't mention God in the Constitution, Hamilton said, "we forgot." And that they didn't need "foreign aid." Those two quotations appear to be "unconfirmed" as David Barton would put it.

I like Matthew Franck's reaction when learning those quotations were "unconfirmed":

... I doubt very much that Alexander Hamilton was ever such an ass as to say such a thing, even in his most freethinking days. Nothing like it appears in Hamilton’s collected papers. ...

I disagree that "nothing like it" appears in Hamilton's record. If that's your standard for what constitutes an "ass," other things Hamilton said during that period arguably merit him that label. For instance, when speaking on what he values in a military chaplain, in a letter to Anthony Wayne July 6, 1780, Hamilton said:

“He is just what I should like for a military parson except that he does not whore or drink. He will fight, and he will not insist upon your going to heaven whether you will or not."

Likewise when noting what he was looking for in a wife, to John Laurens, December, 1779, Hamilton writes:

In politics I am indifferent what side she may be of. I think I have arguments that will easily convert her to mine. As to religion a moderate stock will satisfy me. She must believe in God and hate a saint.

But as to fortune, the larger stock of that the better. You know my temper and circumstances and will therefore pay special attention in the treaty. Though I run no risk of going to Purgatory for my avarice, yet as money is an essential ingredient to happiness in this world, as I have not much of my own, and as I am very little calculated to get more either by my address or industry, it must needs be that my wife, if I get one, bring at least a sufficiency to administer to her own extravagancies.

Notice how Hamilton cares more about the specifics of his political creed than his religious creed. He cares about converting his future wife to his politics; but as to religion, she has to merely "believe in God and hate a saint." We see no, "I have arguments that will easily convert my wife to Christianity because I can show her the evidences of its historical truth."

Given his wife turned out to be an orthodox Christian, it's likely that she converted him at the end of his life.

Finally, regarding Hamilton's self interested avariciousness referenced in the above letter, if compatible with "Christianity" at all, seems more like the prosperity Gospel of Benny Hinn, Jim Bakker, or Robert Tilton than of respectable Christianity.

[Final final note: I'm not so sure how seriously to take Hamilton's crack on "purgatory." That's certainly part of Roman Catholicism, an orthodox faith; but most reformed/evangelical Protestant creeds of the Founding era, like those today, reject purgatory. The more "enlightened" Protestant Christian unitarian-universalists, however, did believe in Protestant Purgatory, where good people went to Heaven, bad people were temporarily punished there.]
Jehovah's Witness Cartoon:

It's not as amusing as the Mormon Cartoon. But it looks like it was made from the same folks.

American Creation needs a Jehovah's Witness blogger (is anyone out there available?). I see JWs, like the Mormons and Swedenborgs, typifying the reductio ad absurdum of Protestant logic. Theologically freed from the Magesterium, and political free to read the Bible for themselves and voluntarily form their own churches and communities, you get a variety of Protestant biblical interpretations, not all of them that will accord with historic orthodox doctrine.

As I've noted before, the JWs do believe in an odd version of the Arian heresy, which was very popular among elite freethinking Enlightenment "Christian" crowd in American and England during the Founding era. This was especially so in John Adams' mid to late 18th Cen. New England.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Unlike George Washington and James Madison,...

Barack Obama is a Christian. The title to my post is a little tongue in cheek. Actually, more conservatively put, Barack Obama AGAIN gives evidence, this time quite a bit, of believing in certain traditionally held Christian minimums (granted he believes in some off-beat theology along with it) that James Madison and George Washington do not give. And Jefferson & J. Adams, as we know, bitterly rejected those minimums.

From Jacques Berlinerblau:

Well, when the President of the United States of America (a Democrat) delivers a 22-minute address about his personal faith, drops half a dozen Scripture bombs along the way, and declaims “I came to know Jesus Christ for myself and embrace Him as my lord and savior”—all I can say is that the sixties are over, man!

The Golden Age of Secularism has passed. The Secular Movement—if there ever was a viable one in this country—must look at events such the NPB as an invitation to think secularism afresh (something I am trying to do in my current research).

From Carter, to Reagan, to Bush, to Clinton, to Bush, to Obama, the modern Presidency seems far more "Christian" than the Founding era one at least in terms of explicit words given by each President, in public and private, about his faith.
John Fea on Why Jefferson and Franklin were not "Deists."

Here and here. Also order Dr. Fea's book that comes out sometime this month. It's sure to bring much greater understanding of the issue of the FFs' personal religious creed to the orthodox Christian audience to whom it is primarily directed. (Yet, I think it will also be a very valuable resources to any curious person regardless of his or her religious faith.)

Here is a taste from Dr. Fea's personal blog:

... And yes, one can be a theist and reject all the tenets of Christianity. One could certainly believe in a God who intervenes and providentially orchestrates the world without believing that that God revealed himself in the form of a human who died for the sins of the world. What I am basically doing (and I am giving a bit of my book away here) is trying to argue that the founders were neither deists or Christians, but something in-between. Some scholars have suggested that they were "theistic rationalists." I think this is a fair term (although I am not sure I use it in the book).

The larger truth that I've been pressing for years: We've got two boxes "Christian" and "Deist" each of which can have narrow or broad meanings. The narrow meaning of "Christian" is someone who believes in the Trinity and cognate orthodox doctrines, that the biblical canon is inerrant or infallible, etc. The narrow meaning of "Deist" is someone who believes in a non-intervening clockmaker God who does not reveal anything to man in any Holy Book. What a wide gulf between those two concepts! It shouldn't surprise that many Founders wouldn't fit into either box, but be somewhere in between.

The game that scholars or advocates can play is define one box strictly and one box broadly in order to capture a particular founder for a preferred outcome. Strictly speaking the first four Presidents and Ben Franklin were neither Christians nor Deists (with some admitted uncertainty regarding Washington and Madison). Broadly speaking they were both Christians AND Deists.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Harry Reems and Alan Dershowitz on Firing Line:

It's worth watching just to see Dershowitz's hair.