America’s Founders and the Bible

Over at the American Creation blog, Carl Richard has presented a summary of the thesis in his forthcoming book The Founders and the Bible.

Richards offers a nuanced, complex view of the importance of the Judeo-Christian worldview to seemingly every one of founders of the United States, including the most unorthodox.

What stood out to me is confirmation that deism was not as prominent as is popularly attributed. This is a point I always find myself arguing. As Richards correctly remarks,

none of the founders was a deist, at least not if one defines deism in the conventional manner, to refer to the belief in a God who created the universe but does not intervene in it. Even the least orthodox founders believed in an omniscient, omnipotent God much like the deity of the Bible, who not only invested each individual with inalienable rights but also intervened in the affairs of individuals, societies, and nations to enforce those rights, as well as to advance other goods necessary to human happiness.

In other words, if a significant percentage of the founders were deists, there would not be calls for national days of prayer, fasting, and humiliation; George Washington would not have ordered the requirement of military chaplains in the Continental Army; and so forth. Why? Because…what difference would it make to a God that doesn’t answer petitions and intervene in human affairs?

The other point that stood out for me was the delineation Richards drew between “unorthodox” and “orthodox” founders, which he defined as the former rejecting miracles and believing God only intervened via natural processes, while the latter accepted the miraculous. This is a rather bold claim and I am exceedingly interested to see this teased out more in the book, but it does make a great deal of sense because, as Richards notes, even the “unorthodox” founders (the Jeffersons, Paines, and Franklins) would argue vigorously as to the merits of the Bible and its worldview over all others, particularly in its ability to inculcate morality, virtue, and forgiveness, which are prerequisite for sound, just government and society.

This is a book I really looking forward to reading.

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