Were the Founding Fathers Christians?

Some might say that the founding fathers were not truly Christian and were only cultural Christians, having no true faith. To that, I say the majority of the founding fathers who signed Declaration of Independence (July 1776), the Articles of Confederation (drafted 1777, ratified 1781) or the Constitution of the United States of America (1789), or were members of the First Federal Congress, were Episcopalian/Anglican, Presbyterian, or Congregationalist. The same is true for the senators and representatives of the 1st US Congress.

Here is a listing of the denomination of each of the first 7 presidents:

George Washington was Anglican/Episcopalian
John Adams was Unitarian
Thomas Jefferson was unknown (probably unitarian, but never associated with one)
James Madison was Espicopalian.
John Qunicy Adams was Unitarian
Andrew Jackson was Presbyterian
Martin Van Buren was Dutch Reformed

Of course, this does not speak to the level of firmness of conviction these people had concerning their faith. Neither does it say that they trusted Christ as their savior. Some could have been merely cultural Christians, while others might have held strong convictions concerning their faith. Some could have been deists, theists, or trinitarians. But we DO know these men attended certain churches. In some cases, we know a lot about their public lives and little about their private lives – some men were very reticent to speak/write about their faith.

This was the case with George Washington. He rarely discussed or wrote concerning his personal faith in God. But to look at his writings and speeches, it seems he had at least a faith in God. But the question that has arisen is whether he believed in a god who interacted with mankind or a god who expected his creation to take care of itself.

Indeed, some have said George Washington was a deist. However, his granddaughter, whom he adopted almost at birth as his daughter and who lived with he and his wife 20 years said he was episcopalian and a devout Christian who observed the Sabbath; she also said he was of the habit of devotions in the morning and evening, but that he communed with God in secret.

The afternoon was spent in his own room at home; the evening with his family, and without company. Sometimes an old and intimate friend called to see us for an hour or two; but visiting and visitors were prohibited for that day….

It was his custom to retire to his library at nine or ten o’clock, where he remained an hour before he went to his chamber. He always rose before the sun, and remained in his library until called to breakfast. I never witnessed his private devotions. I never inquired about them. I should have thought it the greatest heresy to doubt his firm belief in Christianity. His life, his writings, prove that he was a Christian. He was not one of those, who act or pray,’ that they may be seen of men.’ He communed with his God in secret.

He is also said to have taken communion in Morristown and in Philadelphia. From a letter Of Rev. James Richards, D.D. 14th of April, 1836.

I became a resident in that town [Morristown] in the summer of 1794, while Doctor Johnes was still living—and was afterwards the regular pastor of that congregation for about fourteen years. The report that Washington did actually receive the communion from the hands of Doctor Johnes, was universally current during that period, and so far as I know, never contradicted. I have often heard it from the members of Doctor Johnes’ family, while they added that a note was addressed by Washington to their father, requesting the privilege, and stating that though connected with the Episcopal Church, he felt a freedom and desire to commune with those of another name, if acceptable to them. Very often, too, have I heard this circumstance spoken of as evidence of that great man’s liberality, as well as piety.

Apparently, he also took communion in Philadelphia.

General Washington was a pious man, and a member of your church [Episcopal]. I saw him myself on his knees receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in Church, in Philadelphia.

Deists do not believe in divine intervention, yet his adopted daughter said he had prayed for the recovery of her aunt.

When my aunt, Miss Custis, died suddenly at Mount Vernon, before they could realize the event, he knelt by her and prayed most fervently, most’ affectingly, for her recovery.

Additionally, George Washington’s private secretary and nephew, Robert Lewis said he had witnessed Washington in his morning and nightly devotions and thought it his habit.

Being a nephew of Washington, and his private secretary during the first part of his presidency, Mr. Lewis lived with him on terms of intimacy, and had the best opportunity for observing his habits. Mr. Lewis said he had accidentally witnessed his private devotions in his library both morning and evening; that on those occasions he had seen him in a kneeling posture with a Bible open before him, and that he believed such to have been his daily practice.

His first biographer, John Marshall, who served as a captain in Valley Forge with General Washington during the winter of 1777-1778 and would become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, stated he believed George Washington to be a Christian.

Without making ostentatious professions of religion, he was a sincere believer in the Christian faith, and a truly devout man.

But Dr. Abercrombie, the Anglican/Espiscopalian priest who pastored the church George Washington attended after the revolution, stated that George Washington did not take communion and so did not consider him a Christian,

“That Washington was a professing Christian, is evident from his regular attendance in our church; but, Sir, I cannot consider any man as a real Christian who uniformly disregards an ordinance so solemnly enjoined by the divine Author of our holy religion, and considered as a channel of divine grace.”

But there are many possible reasons why one might not receive communion after the revolution, which George Washington appears to never have written or spoken about. But in regards as to a possible reason George Washington did not take communion, and whether one was excommunicating one’s self, Bishop Meade stated:

If it be asked how we can reconcile this leaving of the church at any time of the celebration of the Lord’s Supper with a religious character, we reply by stating a well-known fact, viz.: that in former days there was a most mistaken notion, too prevalent both in England and America, that it was not so necessary in the professors of religion to communicate at all times, but that in this respect persons might be regulated by their feelings, and perhaps by the circumstances in which they were placed. I have had occasion to see much of this in my researches into the habits of the members of the old Church of Virginia. Into this error of opinion and practice General Washington may have fallen, especially at a time when he was peculiarly engaged with the cares of government and a multiplicity of engagements, and when his piety may have suffered some loss thereby.

I find it hard to believe someone who was a deist would pray about the constitutional convention being in the hand of God, as George Washington did:

On May 14, 1787, George Washington, as President of the Constitutional Convention, rose to admonish and exhort the delegates and declared: ‘If to please the people we offer what we ourselves disapprove, how can we afterward defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair; the event is in the hand of God.

George Washington signed The first Thanksgiving proclamation, October 3, 1789, which spoke of how the almighty God, the beneficient author of all good,  whose will we should obey, interposed His providence and cared for and protected the people. This does not sound like a deist.

WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour….

…great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good… rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people…. for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed;– for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish Constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;– for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;– and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleased to confer upon us

In a circular letter sent to all the governors, dated June 8, 1783, he stated that he prayed God would protect the states and incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government, to love one another, to dispose them all to do justice, love mercy, be charitable, humble, and not sharp tempers – all of which were characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without imitating the country would not be happy. When speaking of Divine Author, it seems clear to me that he was speaking of Christ, whom we are to imitate.

I now make it my earnest prayer that God would have you, and the state over which you preside, in his holy protection, that he would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government ; to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the field; and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristicks of the Divine Author of our blessed religion ; without an humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation

This same man said in a speech to Delaware Chiefs in Middle Brook, May 12, 1779 they should learn the religion of Jesus Christ.

You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ.

It may be George Washington did not believe in the deity of Christ, we do not know – he simply did not speak of it. But whether he did or did not, this does not make him a deist, merely a theist. And it is evident he thought highly of the Christian religion and maintained private devotions.

Some have also claimed that president John Adams was a deist. But deists do not believe god interacts with His creation. Yet, John Adams (in his March 23, 1798 national Fasting and Prayer proclamation) apparently believed that a merciful and gracious God protects nations, and asked people to confess their sins to God and ask forgiveness through the Redeemer of the world and for God to incline the people through the Holy Spirit to repentance and reformation, and the people give “fervent thanksgiving to the Bestower of Every Good Gift.”

As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and blessing of Almighty God… the just judgments of God against prevalent iniquity are a loud call to repentance and reformation….

I HAVE therefore thought it fit to recommend, that Wednesday, the 9th day of May next be observed throughout the United States, as a day of Solemn Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer; That the citizens of these states, abstaining on that day from their customary worldly occupations, offer their devout addresses to the Father of Mercies, agreeably to those forms or methods which they have severally adopted as the most suitable and becoming: That all religious congregations do, with the deepest humility, acknowledge before GOD the manifold sins and transgressions with which we are justly chargeable as individuals and as a nation; beseeching him, at the same time, of his infinite Grace, through the Redeemer of the world, freely to remit all our offences, and to incline us, by his holy spirit, to that sincere repentance and reformation which may afford us reason to hope for his inestimable favor and heavenly benediction….

And finally, I recommend that on the said day the duties of humiliation and prayer be accompanied by fervent thanksgiving to the Bestower of Every Good Gift….

Additionally, it is clear from this letter to Thomas Jefferson that John Adams believed in God’s interaction with mankind, but did not believe a good God could create people and allow them to suffer.

God has infinite wisdom, goodness, and power; he created the universe; his duration is eternal, a parte ante and a parte post. His presence is as extensive as space. What is space? An infinite spherical vacuum. He created this speck of dirt and the human species for his glory; and with the deliberate design of making nine tenths of our species miserable for ever for his glory. This is the doctrine of Christian theologians, in general, ten to one. Now, my friend, can prophecies or miracles convince you or me that infinite benevolence, wisdom, and power, created, and preserves for a time, innumerable millions, to make them miserable for ever, for his own glory ? Wretch ! What is his glory? Is he ambitious ? Does he want promotion ? Is he vain, tickled with adulation, exulting and triumphing in his power and the sweetness of his vengeance? Pardon me, my Maker, for these awful questions. My answer to them is always ready- I believe no such things. My adoration of the author of the universe is too profound and too sincere. The love of God and his creation — delight, joy, triumph, exultation in my own existence — though but an atom, a molecule organiqne in the universe — are my religion.

Howl, snarl, bite, ye Calvinistic, ye Athanasian divines, if you will; ye will say I am no Christian; I say ye are no Christians, and there the account is balanced. Yet I believe all the honest men among you are Christians, in my sense of the word.

In fact, we see the he did not believe in the divinity of Christ in his diary January 13, 1756.

Major Greene this evening fell into some conversation with me about the Divinity and satisfaction of Jesus Christ. All the argument he advanced was, ” that a mere creature or finite being could not make satisfaction to infinite justice for any crimes,” and that ” these things are very mysterious.” Thus mystery is made a convenient cover for absurdity.

But just because he did not believe in the deity of Christ does not mean he didn’t believe God sent Christ. We have no evidence either way.

We know his son, John Quincy Adams (6th president, from 1825-1829), wrote a letter to his own son dated 1-8 September, 1811 that he read four or five chapters of the Bible daily, reading the Bible through in one year:

I have myself for many years made it a practice to read through the Bible once every year. I have always endeavoured to read it with the same spirit and temper of mind which I now recommend to you. That is, with the intention and desire that it may contribute to my advancement in wisdom and virtue. My desire is indeed very imperfectly successful, for like you, and like the Apostle Paul, I find a law in my members warring against the law of my mind. But as I know that it is my nature to be imperfect, so I know it is my duty to aim at perfection ; and feeling and deploring my own frailties, I can only pray Almighty God, for the aid of his spirit to strengthen my good desires and to subdue my propensities to evil. For it is from him that every good and every perfect gift descends.

My custom is to read four or five chapters of the Bible every morning immediately after rising from bed. It employs about an hour of my time, and seems to me the most suitable manner of beginning the day.

But he recognized he did not understand everything in the Bible:

Conscience sometimes asks the question, whether my not understanding many passages is not owing to my want of attention in reading them? I must admit that it is; a full proof of which is, that every time that I read the book through, I do understand some passages which I never understood before, and which I should have understood at a former reading had it been effected with a sufficient degree of attention.

Even so, he believed in what the Bible taught.

Those duties are — to God, — to your fellow-creatures, — and to yourself. ” Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength, and thy neighbor as thyself.” (Luke x. 27.) ” On these two commandments,” (Jesus Christ expressly says) “hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. xxii. 40.) That is to say, that the whole purpose of divine revelation is to inculcate them efficaciously upon the minds of men.

You will perceive that I have spoken of duties to yourself, distinct from those to God and to your fellow-creatures; while Jesus Christ speaks of only two commandments. The reason is, because Christ and the commandment repeated by him consider self-love as so implanted in the heart of every man by the law of his nature, that it required no other commandment to establish its influence over the heart. And so great do they know its power to be, that they demand no other measure for the love of our neighbor, than that which they know we shall have for ourselves. But from the love of God, and the love of our neighbor, result duties to ourselves as well as to them, and they are all to be learnt in equal perfection by searching the Scriptures.

The Bible contains the Revelation of the Will of God; it contains the history of the creation of the world and of mankind, and afterwards the history of one peculiar nation — certainly the most extraordinary nation that has ever appeared upon earth. It contains a system of religion and of morality, which we may examine upon its own merits, independent of the sanction it receives from being the Word of God ; and it contains a numerous collection of books, written at different ages of the world, by different authors, which we may survey as curious monuments of antiquity, and as literary compositions. In what light soever we regard it, whether with reference to revelation, to history, to morality, or to literature, it is an invaluable and inexhaustible mine of knowledge and virtue.

He believed Jesus was God, but as so far as to whether Christ is a manifestation of God or the Son of God, he was unsure (from here and here).

It is the belief of the great majority of Christians, that in the person of Jesus Christ, God himself again appeared in human form; that he took upon himself the nature of man, to teach mankind his most perfect law, and to redeem them from the curse of death by submitting to it himself. This however has become a subject of great controversy among Christians themselves. I have read very little of the numberless volumes which have been written on both sides of this question. But I have endeavoured by assiduous attention to the New Testament, to settle my own opinion concerning it. There are so many passages, both in the Gospels and the Epistles, which countenance the doctrine of the Divinity of Christ and so many which appear incompatible with it, that to my judgment it is not among the things clearly revealed. I know not how to order my speech by reason of darkness, and I therefore conclude it is one of those mysteries, not to be unfolded to me during this present life.

But. whether Jesus Christ was a manifestation of Almighty God in the form of a man, or whether he was but the only begotten Son of God, by whom he made the world, and by whom he will judge the world in righteousness, I consider as merely a speculative question, which I am not called upon to settle, and about which my only duty is not to suffer my passions or prejudices to be engaged on either side. That he came into the world to preach repentance and remission of sins, to proclaim glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to man ; and finally to bring life and immortality to light in the Gospel; all this is equally clear, if we consider the Bible as divine revelation ; and all this it imports infinitely our conduct in this world and our happiness in the next to know. The rest may be left to a brighter state of existence to ascertain.

John Quincy Adams thanked God and included the US among ‘Christian nations’ in his first national address:

In taking a general survey of the concerns of our beloved country, with reference to subjects interesting to the common welfare, the first sentiment which impresses itself upon the mind is of gratitude to the Omnipotent Disposer of All Good for the continuance of the signal blessings of His providence, and especially for that health which to an unusual extent has prevailed within our borders, and for that abundance which in the vicissitudes of the seasons has been scattered with profusion over our land. Nor ought we less to ascribe to Him the glory that we are permitted to enjoy the bounties of His hand in peace and tranquillity — in peace with all the other nations of the earth, in tranquillity among our selves. There has, indeed, rarely been a period in the history of civilized man in which the general condition of the Christian nations has been marked so extensively by peace and prosperity.

In the same speech, he said concerning the people of the United States,

An additional motive for keeping a respectable force stationed there at this time is found in the maritime war raging between the Greeks and the Turks, and in which the neutral navigation of this Union is always in danger of outrage and depredation. A few instances have occurred of such depredations upon our merchant vessels by privateers or pirates wearing the Grecian flag, but without real authority from the Greek or any other Government. The heroic struggles of the Greeks themselves, in which our warmest sympathies as free men and Christians have been engaged, have continued to be maintained with vicissitudes of success adverse and favorable.

Thomas Jefferson apparently did not believe in the divinity of Christ, but he did believe in a God who governs, and he believed in the morality inherent to Christianity. He wrote the following in a letter to Esra Stiles , president of Yale College, March 9, 1790:

I believe in one God, the Creator of the Universe. That he governs it by his Providence. That he sught to be worshiped. That the most acceptable service we render him is doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental points in all sound religion, and I regard them as you do in whatever sect I meet with them. As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals, and his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw, or is like to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble.* I see no harm however in its being believed, if that belief has the good consequence, as probably it has, of making his doctrines more respected, and more observed, especially as I do not perceive that the Supreme takes it amiss, by distinguishing the believers in his government of the world with any particular marks of his displeasure. I shall only add, respecting myself, that having experienced the goodness of that Being, in conducting me prosperously through a long life, I have no doubt of its continuance in the next, though without the smallest conceit of meriting such goodness.

Thomas Paine was most definitely not a Christian in any sense, as reading his “the Age of Reason” shows.

John Jay, first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, was president of the American Bible Society in 1827.

Of the 85 men that made up the first US Congress and Senate, at least 9 studied theology and/or were preachers or leaders in their church or involved in a Bible society.

BALDWIN, Abraham – (half-brother of Henry Baldwin of Pennsylvania), a Delegate, a Representative, and a Senator from Georgia; born in North Guilford, Conn., November 22, 1754; moved with his father to New Haven, Conn., in 1769; attended private schools; graduated from Yale College in 1772; subsequently studied theology at the college and was licensed to preach in 1775; served as a tutor in that institution 1775-1779, when he resigned to enter the Army; chaplain in the Second Connecticut Brigade, Revolutionary Army, from 1777 until 1783, when the troops disbanded; studied law during his service in the Army; admitted to the bar in 1783 and practiced at Fairfield; moved to Augusta, Ga., in 1784 and continued the practice of law; member of the State house of representatives 1785; originator of the plan for, and author of, the charter of the University of Georgia and served as president 1786-1801; member of the Continental Congress 1785, 1787, and 1788; member of the United States Constitutional Convention 1787; elected to the First and to the four succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1789-March 3, 1799); elected to the United States Senate in 1799; reelected in 1805 and served from March 4, 1799, until his death on March 4, 1807; served as President pro tempore of the Senate during the Seventh Congress; died in Washington, D.C.; interment in Rock Creek Cemetery.

BOUDINOT, Elias, a Delegate and a Representative from New Jersey; born in Philadelphia, Pa., May 2, 1740; received a classical education; studied law; was admitted to the bar in 1760 and commenced practice in Elizabethtown, N.J.; member of the board of trustees of Princeton College 1772-1821; member of the committee of safety in 1775; commissary general of prisoners in the Revolutionary Army 1776-1779; Member of the Continental Congress in 1778, 1781, 1782 and 1783, serving as President in 1782 and 1783, and signing the treaty of peace with England; resumed the practice of law; elected as a Pro-Administration candidate to the First, Second, and Third Congresses (March 4, 1789-March 3, 1795); was not a candidate for renomination in 1794 to the Fourth Congress; Director of the Mint from October 1795 to July 1805, when he resigned; elected first president of the American Bible Society, in 1816; died in Burlington, Burlington County, N.J., October 24, 1821; interment in St. Mary’s Protestant Episcopal Church Cemetery.

CONTEE, Benjamin – (uncle of Alexander Contee Hanson and granduncle of Thomas Contee Worthington), a Delegate and a Representative from Maryland; born at “Brookefield,” near Nottingham, Prince Georges County, Md., in 1755; attended a private school; served in the Revolutionary War as lieutenant and captain in the Third Maryland Battalion; member of the State house of delegates 1785-1787; Member of the Continental Congress in 1788; elected as an Anti-Administration candidate to the First Congress (March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791); was not a candidate for renomination in 1790; traveled in various European countries, and studied theology; continued theological study on his return to the United States, and was ordained a minister of the Episcopal Church in 1803; was pastor of the Episcopal Church at Port Tobacco, Charles County; was serving as presiding judge of the Charles County Orphans’ Court at the time of his death; died in Charles County, Md., November 30, 1815; interment at “Bromont,” his former home, near Port Tobacco, Md.

FOSTER, Abiel – Delegate and a Representative from New Hampshire; born in Andover, Mass., August 8, 1735; was graduated from Harvard College in 1756; studied theology; was ordained and installed as pastor in Canterbury, N.H., in 1761 and served until 1779; deputy to the Provincial Congress at Exeter in 1775; Member of the Continental Congress 1783-1785; judge of the court of common pleas of Rockingham County 1784-1788; elected as a Pro-Administration candidate to the First Congress (March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791); member of the State senate 1791-1794, and served as its president in 1793; elected as a Federalist to the Fourth and to the three succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1795-March 3, 1803)

Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg (brother of John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg, uncle of Francis Swaine Muhlenberg and of Henry Augustus Philip Muhlenberg, and great-great-grand uncle of Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg), a Delegate and a Representative from Pennsylvania; born in Trappe, Pa., January 1, 1750; pursued an academic course; attended the University of Halle, Germany; studied theology and was ordained by the ministerium of Pennsylvania a minister of the Lutheran Church October 25, 1770; preached in Stouchsburg and Lebanon, Pa., 1770-1774, and in New York City 1774-1776; when the British entered New York he felt obliged to leave, and returned to Trappe, Pa.; moved to New Hanover, Pa., and was pastor there and in Oley and New Goshenhoppen until August 1779; Member of the Continental Congress, 1779-1780; member of the Pennsylvania state house of representatives, 1780-1783, and its speaker, 1780-1783; delegate to and president of the Pennsylvania state constitutional convention in 1787 called to ratify the Federal Constitution; elected as a Pro-Administration candidate to the First Congress, reelected as an Anti-Administration candidate to the Second and Third Congresses, and elected as a Republican to the Fourth Congress (March 4, 1789-March 3, 1797); Speaker of the House of Representatives (First and Third Congresses); was not a candidate for renomination in 1796; president of the council of censors of Pennsylvania; receiver general of the Pennsylvania Land Office, 1800-1801; died in Lancaster, Pa., June 4, 1801; interment in Woodward Hill Cemetery.

MUHLENBERG, John Peter Gabriel, (father of Francis Swaine Muhlenberg, brother of Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg, uncle of Henry Augustus Philip Muhlenberg, and great-great-grandfather of Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg), a Representative and a Senator from Pennsylvania; born in Trappe, Pa., October 1, 1746; pursued classical studies; attended the Academy of Philadelphia (later the University of Pennsylvania); studied in the University of Halle, Germany, 1763-1766; apprenticed to a grocer, absconded, and served in a German regiment of dragoons; returned to Philadelphia in 1766; studied theology and was ordained in 1768; pastor of Lutheran churches in New Germantown and Bedminster, N.J.; moved to Woodstock, Va.; on a visit to England in 1772 was ordained a priest in the Anglican Church; member, Virginia house of burgesses 1774; chairman of the committee of safety for Dunmore County, Va.; during the Revolutionary War, raised and commanded the Eighth Virginia (German) Regiment; commissioned brigadier general of the Continental Army in 1777, and brevetted major general in 1783; returned to Pennsylvania and settled in Montgomery County; elected a member of the supreme executive council of Pennsylvania in 1784 and served as vice president 1785-1788; elected to the First Congress (March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791), the Third Congress (March 4, 1793-March 3, 1795), and the Sixth Congress (March 4, 1799-March 3, 1801); presidential elector in 1796; elected to the United States Senate and served from March 4, 1801, until his resignation on June 30, 1801; appointed by President Thomas Jefferson supervisor of revenue for Pennsylvania in 1801 and collector of customs at Philadelphia in 1802, in which latter capacity he served until his death at Gray’s Ferry, Montgomery County, Pa., October 1, 1807; interment in the Augustus Lutheran Church Cemetery, Trappe, Pa.

PARTRIDGE, George, a Delegate and a Representative from Massachusetts; born in Duxbury, Mass., February 8, 1740; was graduated from Harvard College in 1762; taught school in Kingston, Mass.; studied theology; delegate to the Provincial Congress in 1774 and 1775; member of the state house of representatives 1775-1779; sheriff of Plymouth County 1777-1812; Member of the Continental Congress 1779-1785; member of the state house of representatives in 1788; elected as a Pro-Administration candidate to the First Congress and served from March 4, 1789, to August 14, 1790, when he resigned; endowed Partridge Seminary in Duxbury; died in Duxbury, Plymouth County, Mass., on July 7, 1828; interment in Mayflower Cemetery.

SEDGWICK, Theodore, a Delegate, a Representative, and a Senator from Massachusetts; born in West Hartford, Conn., May 9, 1746; attended Yale College; studied theology and law; admitted to the bar in 1766 and commenced practice in Great Barrington, Mass.; moved to Sheffield, Mass.; during the Revolutionary War served in the expedition against Canada in 1776; member, State house of representatives 1780, 1782-1783; member, State senate 1784-1785; Member of the Continental Congress 1785, 1786, and 1788; member, State house of representatives 1787-1788, and served as speaker; delegate to the State convention that adopted the Federal Constitution in 1788; elected to the First and to the three succeeding Congresses and served from March 4, 1789, until his resignation in June 1796; elected as a Federalist to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Caleb Strong and served from June 11, 1796, to March 3, 1799; served as President pro tempore of the Senate during the Fifth Congress; elected to the Sixth Congress (March 4, 1799-March 3, 1801); Speaker of the House of Representatives, Sixth Congress; judge of the supreme court of Massachusetts 1802-1813; died in Boston, Mass., January 24, 1813; interment in the family cemetery, Stockbridge, Mass.

SHERMAN, Roger – Member of the Continental Congress 1774-1781, and 1784; a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a member of the committee which drafted it; member of the committee to prepare the Articles of Confederation; the only Member of the Continental Congress who signed the Declaration of 1774, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Federal Constitution; mayor of New Haven from 1784 until his death; delegate to the Federal Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia in 1787; elected to the First Congress (March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791); elected to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of William S. Johnson and served from June 13, 1791, until his death in New Haven, Conn., July 23, 1793.

Roger Sherman wrote the following statement of faith in 1788:

I believe that there is one only living and true God, existing in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, the same in substance equal in power and glory. That the scriptures of the old and new testaments are a revelation from God, and a complete rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him. That God has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass, so as thereby he is not the author or approver of sin. That he creates all things, and preserves and governs all creatures and all their actions, in a manner perfectly consistent with the freedom of will in moral agents, and the usefulness of means. That he made man at first perfectly holy, that the first man sinned, and as he was the public head of his posterity, they all became sinners in consequence of his first transgression, are wholly indisposed to that which is good and inclined to evil, and on account of sin are liable to all the miseries of this life, to death, and to the pains of hell forever. I believe that God having elected some of mankind to eternal life, did send his own son to become man, die in the room and stead of sinners, and thus to lay a foundation for the offer of pardon and salvation to all mankind, so as all may be saved who are willing to accept the gospel offer: Also by his special grace and spirit, to regenerate, sanctify and enable to persevere in holiness, all who shall be saved; and to procure in consequence of their repentance and faith in himself their justification by virtue of his atonement as the only meritorious cause. I believe a visible church to be a congregation of those who make a credible profession of their faith in Christ, and obedience to him, joined by the bond of the covenant.

RUSH, Benjamin, a Delegate from Pennsylvania; born in Byberry Township, near Philadelphia, Pa., January 4, 1746; educated under private tutors and at a private school in Nottingham, Md.; was graduated from Princeton College in 1760; studied medicine in Philadelphia, Edinburgh, London, and Paris, and commenced practice in Philadelphia in August 1769; held several professorships in the Philadelphia Medical College; Member of the Continental Congress in 1776 and 1777; a signer of the Declaration of Independence; entered the Revolutionary Army as surgeon general of the Middle Department in April 1777; made physician general in July 1777; resigned in February 1778; resumed the practice of medicine; delegate to the Pennsylvania ratification convention, 1787; founder of the Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia; president of the Philadelphia Medical Society; vice president and one of the founders of the Philadelphia Bible Society; one of the founders of Dickinson College at Carlisle, Pa.; assisted in the establishment of the Philadelphia dispensary in 1786; treasurer of the United States Mint at Philadelphia from 1799 until his death in that city April 19, 1813; interment in Christ Church Burying Ground.

Benjamin Rush thought religion was so important, he would rather any religion be taught than no religion. But recommended the teaching of Christianity in public schools:

Such is my veneration for every religion that reveals the attributes of the Deity, or a future state of rewards and punishments, that I had rather see the opinions of Confucius or Mohammed inculcated upon our youth than see them grow up wholly devoid of a system of religious principles. But the religion I mean to recommend in this place is the religion of Jesus Christ.

It is foreign to my purpose to hint at the arguments which establish the truth of the Christian revelation. My only business is to declare that all its doctrines and precepts are calculated to promote the happiness of society and the safety and well-being of civil government. A Christian cannot fail of being a republican. The history of the creation of man and of the relation of our species to each other by birth, which is recorded in the Old Testament, is the best refutation that can be given to the divine right of kings and the strongest argument that can be used in favor of the original and natural equality of all mankind. A Christian, I say again, cannot fail of being a republican, for every precept of the Gospel inculcates those degrees of humility, self-denial, and brotherly kindness which are directly opposed to the pride of monarchy and the pageantry of a court. A Christian cannot fail of being useful to the republic, for his religion teacheth him that no man “liveth to himself.” And lastly, a Christian cannot fail of being wholly inoffensive, for his religion teacheth him in all things to do to others what he would wish, in like circumstances, they should do to him.

Not every founding father was a man of strong faith. Not all the founding fathers had faith in Christ. Some were probably deists. Certainly some were theists, believing in a God who interacted with his creation. But all seemed to believe, as Jefferson did, “the system of morals, and his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw, or is like to see.”

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74 Responses

  1. Not receiving the sacrament for Washington is troublesome, a real Christian would not be so inclined I would think? But it is like the later English Anglicans also who saw the work of Wesley and company as “Methodist” I suppose. But no doubt Washington was a great man, but perhaps as you say one could be a “cultural” Christian? But even so that does not negate the grace of God in his life. Yes I vote Washington the Christian! But like all of “us”….alone known to God.

    PS I know you don’t think Washington was himself a cultural Christian alone.

  2. As for not receiving taking communion, I can think of a time when I did not take it for years – for a variety of reasons. I was not walking right with God; I was willfully sinful; etc. One has to judge oneself – to be in a right position with God – to take the communion.

    I think Washington was a Christian in every sense of the word.

  3. I agree, but I did read the piece by his one former Rector about not taking the sacrament. The sacrament is not just a symbol for most Anglicans, but is itself a real partaking and communion with Christ. So I am not sure why Washington would not partake? Perhaps the visible as president? He being like many men of his time, very private, etc. But he certainly does have the appearance of the Christian man.

  4. Wb, as we have gone over this ourselves, I would only say that we can both present evidence either way. I think we would agree, however, that Washington was a man of supreme character and that in the end, regardless of anything else, God will be the judge of the man and He alone knows.

  5. Fr. R.,

    The established church in Virginia was the Church of England. To be in political office, one had to be a member. But it may be he was not convinced of either the divinity of Christ or the sacramental system – though i doubt it.

    Joel,

    What I found interesting was that over 10% of the people in the first legislature were preachers or leaders in their churches. From my reading, it became evident to me that many founding fathers believed in Christ (in one way or another), but also believed what He taught had been corrupted by the priesthood. I was not able to find as much on the people who were not leaders in the revolution. I’d be interested to know what they thought of Christ.

  6. Wb, part of that corruption was the deity of Christ, as they saw it.

    Considering that many people were trained as clergy in those days, I would find it surprising that more were not so in the 1st Congress.

    I’ve often wondered about the Loyalists who preached against the Revolution as they used Romans 13 from a non-Aquinas mentality. There is no doubt that it was the colonial churches which, especially in the south, which helped to solidify the war.

    • Joel,

      For some of them the deity of Christ was the part of the corruption. But for others it was other things.

      Theology was commonly taught in colleges, but not many were chaplains, preachers or leaders in their churches or presidents of Bible societies. Yet that was the case with the founding fathers.

  7. Wb, I am not speaking about theology, but members of clergy. Many men of the age were trained as clergy – I mean, why not, State Churches and all.

    We clearly disagree on the delivered facts – which I can spend time regurgitating, but I will not. I believe that my opinion is clear on this, and well supported, just as yours is. I can throw quotes, such as the treaty of Tripoli, but you could retort with a modern apologist.

    One of us is likely right, but does it matter to the Christian life? Hardly.

    • Joel,

      I think you misunderstand me. I am not saying this country was Christian, in the sense that it was a theocracy – because it was not. I am saying the people were Christian and it was founded upon principles found in the Bible.

      John Adams said it was based upon Christian principles. You don’t agree with what he said. I’m OK with that. :)

      The reason it matters, why I posted on it, is that the founding of our nation is an example of people putting their faith into practice – regardless of whether we agree with their decisions.

      I want people to realize that unless they put their faith into practice, its not faith.

  8. wb,
    Yes I knew about the Anglican Church in early American Virgina. Very much like that in England at the time. Much of the Anglican clergy had simply become deist. They would rather hunt and fish, than preach or really give the Lord’s sacrament. Thank God for the Evangelical revival, with the Wesley’s, Calvinistic Methodists, etc. And of course the American version. Whitefield is buried in Boston (though English) having died in America.

    Did not the south later in your Civil War have some of Washington’s family name, for Virginia? I believe so.

    Yes, George Washington was a great man, and I would call him a Christian myself. But the real question is what is a Christian?

  9. I have been a college and university chaplain, important work. But nothing touches being a hospital chaplain. Every priest, pastor, minister should have to do hospital chaplain work!

  10. How can I disagree with you when you are so nice.

    No, I understand about the theocracy, and didn’t think that you meant that.

    One area that I would like to study is the frontier religions during this time. Frontier, meaning you, know, my part of Old Virginia (modern day West Virginia and Kentucky)

  11. wb,
    Great point, but sadly with the unitarianism that is much of the church today. The question of the Gospel would is still an issue. For example all three of us would no doubt give a different answer here, as to what the Gospel really is.Today’s Unitarianism doctrine rejects the doctrines of the Trinity and the Divinity of Christ in favor of the unipersonality of God.

    Faith in God must be faith in both the person and doctrine of God, and here the full divinity and deity of Christ the eternal Son of the Father comes right or full centre. Both the Pauline and the Johannine Christ, is the eternal Son of the Father. Of course this is much more just correct proposition, but an affair of the heart and the union of the believer with Christ, “the Son of the Father”.
    Thus to know Christ is as the thief on the cross: “Jesus, (Savior) remember me when you come in (into) your kingly power.” (Lk. 23:42) The knowledge of Christ as the Son of God, is a revelation given itself, by God (like St. Peter’s confession – “Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 16:16-17…and a revelation of the Father! (See also 1 John 5:1-12, most profound verses!)

  12. I think the questions of what is the gospel and what is a Christian are important ones.

    I think the definition of the gospel is the good news that God sent His Son to suffer and die so that those who believe might have eternal life. If we believe that, it will engender change (repentance) in us towards God, which will be reflected in a positively changed life. If we do not believe that, then we remain under the wrath of God. This does not necessarily require we understand/believe Jesus is God (although I am convinced He is). I think we can believe God sent Jesus to suffer and die for our sins without understanding or believing that Jesus is a person of the trinity.

    As for what makes one a Christian – this would probably differ based upon one’s perspective.

    Someone who is NOT of the family of religions/sects/denominations which claim Christ would say anyone who follows a religion where Jesus of Nazareth is important would be considered christian. This could include Orthodox Catholic, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Oneness Pentecostals, Unitarian, Mornon, even Bajai, and the offspring of the Reformed Movement, Restoration Movement, Arminianism, Calvinism, Anabaptists, etc. – various Presbyterians, various Baptists, Disciples of Christ, Church of Christ, Christian, Mennonite, Amish, and even those who reject “religion” but follow what Christ taught.

    For others, it is someone who is raised in or attends one of the above named churches.

    For others, it is someone who believes the Bible and follows the ethics taught therein.

    And in one way, they would be right. But in what is considered orthodox, they would be wrong. And if you look at it from the perspective of a devout member of one of those denominations, everyone else would be wrong and in many cases heretical.

  13. wb,
    Yes this is a big and important subject! And one that cannot be answered quickly or lightly, least to my mind. As much as I disagree for example with Joel, I do not see him outside the bounds of Christian Brotherhood strictly. But also, one can be certainly “heterodox”. Which is where I place him, as to the Christian doctrines and creeds. But since he holds to an aspect of God incarnate, this to me is the measuring line in some sense to God’s bottom line in salvation. But Christ as the Son of God, eternal, etc. And the regal nature of God the Father, and the eternal person of the Holy Spirit. Indeed one God in unity, and God in tri-unity. Yes these are not added extras, but the centre of the doctrine of God. Again, ignorance of the Son of God as eternal is one thing, but outright denial is another. And as my quote in my blog post on the Trinity of God, here we are central in all the realities of God and salvation also. For salvation must indeed be a growth and a grace that we all as real Christians must continue in until the end, death and dying, and that generation that will finally see the Eschaton and End.

    I am most certainly myself coming closer and closer to where the whole theology of Karl Barth is. At least on Christology, Trinity and Grace of God, and God as totally other! As I have said, I see Barth as a modern Church Father. And we certainly find some of our best Christian witness in the Church Fathers (patristics). Again I place Barth right here! Not Reformed, not R. Catholic, but certainly “Catholic”…to the whole Church. My point with Barth, is that salvation really is God’s whole affair, and not any man’s doing, but in the end man is quite involved. And in the end God is both grace and judgment. As Christ is both the ‘elect man’ and the ‘reprobate man’.

    We cannot make this salvation and grace of God some simple thing! That to my mind that is the so-called “cheap grace”.

    Well I could write more of an essay here, and perhaps shall, to make my clarity better. This is just quickly. And perhaps just for you?

  14. Well said, Wb.

  15. i agree our salvation is all about what God has done. Yet, somehow we still have the responsibility to respond in the affirmative and continue to do so. There is a tension in Scripture in what God has done and our responsibility.

    I’m not sure your meaning: “And in the end God is both grace and judgment. As Christ is both the ‘elect man’ and the ‘reprobate man’.”

    God has many attributes, which He is said to BE 100%. I’m not sure I see that in scripture. But what do you mean God is both grace and judgement? I would say God is love, holy, righteous, just. I don’t see Him being judgement. How do you see him being judgement?

    But how is Christ both the elect and the reprobate?

  16. I am heterodox in some areas – such as the sacraments. Does this make me a pagan? I’m OK with it if someone thinks it does, for I know the truth. I imagine the same would have been said about the founding fathers.

  17. Heterodox to whom, Wb? Who is your judge? Rome?

    • Heterodox to the majority of Christians, I’d guess. I think it is GOD who confers grace upon people who trust in Him through faith in His Son. I don’t see that we really need any more grace than that. And since salvation is all God’s doing, I don’t see how I COULD get more grace or why I’d want it.,,,

      I suppose I wouldn’t mind being graced with His presence, but since He is omnipresent, I already am. I suppose I’d like to be graced with the power of God, but since He dwells in me, I think I already have that. … No. Can’t think of a need for more grace.

  18. I see much of Christian theology being like the laws of nature – I don’t have to understand why water comes to get wet when it rains. I can even have a bad understanding and deny something that all scientists say is true and I will still get wet if I stand out in the rain. The same is true for Christian theology.

    I just have to understand there IS a God and He sent His Son (how ever accurate my understanding of that term is) to suffer and die for our sins, that who ever believes might have eternal life. I think a person can be wrong about what the Bible teaches about everything else, and right on those issues and that person will go to heaven.

  19. wb,
    Barth taught that Christ was the elect of God in Himself, so if we want to know “election” we must simply but profoundly know Christ. Also on the Cross, Christ himself became the “reprobate”, but of course for others.

    That God demands both judgment, but also gives “election” in Christ, is an idea of Barth. Thus in reality the whole triune God was involved in both the judgment and redemption of God… Heb. 9: 14, etc. And thus also Christ is both the “elect” man and the “reprobate” man, even on the Cross. (1 Peter 3:18 / 2 Cor. 5:21)

  20. As far as sacraments bestowing more grace upon you… My understanding is that grace is unmerited favor – something we do nothing to receive, indeed, something we do not deserve to receive. Thus, nothing can confer grace upon someone – only God can do that, and it is done because HE wants to, not because I do something.

    Ephesians 2:8
    For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God

  21. “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” (2 Peter 3: 18) This is “theosis” the process in which God’s grace and life fills and tranforms us. And the Sacrament of the Eucharist really is part of this also. Thus it is much more than just a memorial, but a fellowship of Christ Himself, as we “partake”. (1 Cor. 10: 16-18)

    • How do you understand 2 Peter 3:18?

      I ask because I think you and I have a different understanding of those verses.

      My understanding of 2 Peter 3:18 is not getting more grace. All growth is by grace. Growing in the grace which God has given us in this case is done by growing in knowledge of Christ.

      1 Corinthians 10:16-18 is a symbolic sharing, not actually eating his body or drinking his blood – thus is IS simply a memorial. One in which we symbolically share in what Christ has done, but a memorial none the less.

      As for Luke 2:40, the verse does not say Christ grew in grace.
      NASB – 40 The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom ; and the grace of God was upon Him.
      KVJ – 40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.
      NIV – 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.
      ESV – 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.
      RSV – 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

      I think God’s word IS enough for us to know what He wants us to know. Church councils CAN be helpful, but I think they often just codify what the majority THINK, and not necessarily what God has said.

  22. Heterodox to both the Holy Scripture, and the history of the Church and Ecumenical Councils. We simply cannot live without the “Catholic and Apostolic Church”. (Which is more than Rome I might add. Herein we find also the best of the Reformed too.

  23. Grace is much more than unmerited favor, as our Lord too grew in grace & favor. (Luke 2:40)

  24. If Scripture was enough, and I believe it is, then those who has added to it with Creeds are the heterodox.

    Scripture judges, not Creeds or Tradition.

  25. It would be unbiblical to gain more grace, as if you could work to earn more of a gift. Instead, I would see growth in grace as a spiritual exercise. You learn (knowledge) what Grace is and how to life in Grace. This is growth. God’s Grace is sufficient – you don’t need to add to it.

  26. wb,
    I have always been a Churchman, sometimes Low, sometimes High. But always one that believes in the Anglican idea of the Ecumenical Councils. See the Thirty-nine Articles in the Book of Common Prayer.

    My point to the Text of 1 Peter 3: 18, and Luke 2:40, is that the grace and favor of God certainly do increase in the life of the believer! Again this is “theosis”., “I no longer live but Christ lives in me.” (Gal.) See also Phil. 2:12-13 ; and chapter 3:8-16. This is one of the grave problems with the modern type Evangelical Churches, no growth in grace, or in St. Paul’s words, “santification” as growth. Note, the Greek word and idea for “metanoia” (Repentance) means literally “a transformation of the mind”. A lost art in the postmodern church!

    • I am aware of ecumenical councils. But if I am not mistaken, I believe one of these councils said the pope is infallible and another said Luther was wrong. That proves my point about church councils.

      How do you understand grace, if you think it can increase? How do you think it increases?
      It seems as if you equate sanctification with growth in grace?

      While positional sanctification is instantaneous, personal sanctification is growth in moral goodness.
      I see growth in sanctification as a growth in moral goodness.
      https://wbmoore.wordpress.com/2008/06/21/comparing-justification-and-sanctification/

  27. PS..I am also much more High Church on the Sacraments.

  28. wb,
    This is the great difference between the Evangelical and fundamentalist and the classic High Church or Catholic and Orthodox positions. I am moving back into the High Church to be certain. Funny but Barth has been of great help here! Little wonder that Pope Pius XII called Barth as the most important theologian since Thomas Aquinas. High praise indeed from a Roman to a non Roman Christian, but truly the Body of Christ is One!

  29. *That was 2 Pet. 3:18…

  30. No the the Ecumenical Councils never said the pope was infallible. And Luther did make some grave mistakes at times, though I love his best works. Sorry my brother you must look more deeply at the Ecumenical Councils (no point proven, as you appear not to fully understand them). And as to grace and growth, yes santification is an onward and upward virtue. Note the idea of “virtue” which is a habit, that indeed grows in and with grace. We must use some development of doctrine here, and perhaps a bit of Christian philosophy, with the scripture also. Again we are in the genre of the High Church here.

  31. *Note, I speak of the first seven Ecumenical Councils, as do the Anglicans and E. Orthodox.

    • You can speak of the first how-ever-many ecumenical councils you wish. The Romans speak of as many as they feel is needed. And the twentieth ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church defined papal infallibility.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Vatican_Council

    • Fr. R., you and I will never agree on church tradition being on equal footing with what the Bible states. I have no problem with things that God has said, but scripture says to test everything, holding onto what is good (1 Thes 5:10). If it does not agree with what God has said, then I dont trust it.

  32. wb
    You might want to read my blog on Lewis and theological virtue? Don’t take this wrong, but you could use a bit of brushing up on theology and history :) There really is more than biblicism, but a real biblical theology! This is Scott Hahn’s point in his book on the theology of Benedict.

    Peace of Christ!

    • I read the quote from CS Lewis. I agree with him – its just like the having 5 blind men feel an elephant and describe it. But the church can be just as wrong as any person or group of people, when they disagree with scripture.

      I think that GOD tells us what we need to know about Him. I think the church CAN help, but it must be measured against what GOD has already said. And when the Bible and what the church teaches do not line up, then the church is wrong.

  33. Tucked away into the Ecumenical Councils – how convenient to pick and choose which ones to keep – are church discipline matters which set up the priesthood as well as the 7th which restored the veneration of icons. Further, the long and winding route to the Trinitarian system – fine before 381, not so much after 381, and note the use of Roman Imperial might to enforce 381.

    Doctrinal development then Christian philosophy and then Scripture. I’ll keep Scripture first and foremost.

  34. wb,
    As I noted, and should have stated earlier (since you don’t know), but the Anglican Church and the Orthodox Church have always only followed the first Seven Ecumenical Councils. But, I have been Roman, and I am again in the process of looking that way again. It is of interest that John Henry Newman, at the First Vatican Council first voted against the Infallibility of the Pope. But as he saw the majority later voted for it, he humbled himself to it.

  35. W,
    Yes we won’t agree here, but perhaps we can still have respect for the different positions?

    The Church came before the NT Text, and so in some sense we must look to how that Church exists with and beside Scripture?

    • I understand you believe that church leaders are responsible for what we have as the Bible, and have the power to add to what is taught as being from God. I can see that position, though I think it flawed.

      But I believe GOD wrote the text in the NT (man were the human agents by which God wrote) and GOD decided what was scripture, and that the church leaders agreed with God as to what constituted scripture. I think only GOD has the right to add to what is thought to come from God, not man. If God speaks (and I believe He does) and He wants many to know it (although I can’t imagine why He’d want/need to), He will confirm it by the muiltitude agreeing, just as He did the Old and New Testaments, and there will be no contention about it (which there is about the apocryphal books, for instance).

  36. The NT Text is only part of Scripture, which came first. Considering the value that Scripture played in the life of the early Church – never replacing Christ, as Ignatius would say – we can rest assured that Scripture was first.

  37. The Church Catholic does not add to Holy Scripture, but the Church does have the place of holding to an oral Tradition in the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Also this tradition moves from the place of doctrinal development, as in the case of the Ecumenical Councils. Also this development proceeds along two lines: one is the line of better understanding of and penetration into the revealed truths. The other is the line of constant adaptation of these truths and their practical implications to the varied historical, geographical, cultural, and also the spiritual needs of humanity. But always the Church is “the household of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.” (1 Tim. 3:15)

    “This tradition which comes from the apostles develops in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts (cf. Lk, 2:19, 51), through the intimate understanding of spiritual things they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through the episcopal succession the sure gift of truth.” (Vatican II, DV 8)

    Even the Reformation and Reformed churches believed in the reality of the doctrine of development of Christian doctrine. And for them too, the Church was central here, though of course not like Rome, the Orthothox and the High Church Anglicans. Here we are also in the place of faith and tradition, the sacred Scripture, and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God’s most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others. And again here is the place of the Holy Spirit in the Church Catholic.

    • “The Church Catholic does not add to Holy Scripture”

      As I’ve mentioned before, you and I disagree on that.

      So long as a doctrinal position lines up with scripture, then I have no problem with it – even if the doctrine developed. When it goes against scripture, such as papal infallibility, praying to saints and/or Mary, co-redemptrix, etc., then I have a problem with it.

  38. By theological definition, the Church Catholic and E. Orthodox does not add to the Scripture! At least that is their position and belief.

    As to the Marian doctrines and teachings, that needs most labored study! I doubt you have done such? Sense it does not meet your paradigm. I have myself, and I at least see Mary as the High Church Anglican’s…
    1. The Woman of Prophecy And the Second Eve. (Gen. 3:15, etc.)
    2. Pre-Eminent In Grace And Perfection (human, note grace comes first) (Lk chapter 1: 26-56 ; 2:22-35)
    3. Virginity
    4. Mother of God (Incarnate)
    5. Mother of the Faithful (John 19:26-27)
    6. Pre-Eminent In Glory (Rev. 12:1-6)
    7. The Cult (adoration) Of The Blessed Virgin Mary. (This last is a spiritual cumulation in reality! Those few that I did not comment on speak for themselves, I know you can see the scriptural there, as virginity; and the Mother or Theotokos (Godbearer) of God. See the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus, and Mary as the Theotokos.

    Of course this is my faith as I speak. I might even go with Rome again..who knows? The Lord lead and guide me!

  39. A comfort zone would be to think I can find “all” the answers. And this is hardly faith. I have been a Christian, or a least at it for over 40 years, and the longer I go, the more I realize how really little I know. But I am “In Christ” by grace & glory…the Triune God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

    • I realize its possible I may be wrong on certain issues. But I also realize God will give us wisdom if we ask for it. I have a mind which looks for answers. I used to read what others said about the BIble. Now I prefer to read the Bible itself. Instead of looking for what others say concerning things, I look for what GOD sas about those things. So far, I’ve been able to find answers in scripture to whatever my questions have been. i think the Bible speaks about everything in some way or another – general principles or specific examples. Perhaps you disagree.

  40. One man’s corruption, is another man’s revelation! But we all get to lay it at the feet of Christ in the end. See my post of Quotes for today.

    • I agree with you. There are some things from the RCC I dont have a problem with. But there are others I do.

      We must put everything before the throne of God. Our works will be tested, and as teachers, we will answer to God.

  41. Oh amen to that! I know I shall have my share of “wood, hay and stubble”. As all of us really. But James 3:1 is certainly real and profound!

    PS..As I do with much of the fundamentalism, and poor biblicism I see in so many evangelical churches and their teachers and bloggers. But it also exists with Catholic “traditionalists” (I have seen plenty of them in my life also!)

    • My reliance on the word of God has been addressed by RCCs before. No one has yet to convince me to not test what the RCC (or any other sect) teaches against what scripture says.

  42. That was certainly Luther’s position. But I am not so sure that position is the lasting one? See what has happened to Lutheranism! Sad, as too all of us in this postmodern mess. But, one must measure truth in both the Word & Sacrament, which includes the Church, as there can be no ‘Word & Sacrament’ without the Church!

    “I believe Coleridge was quite right in saying that christianity without a substantial Church is vanity and dissolution; and I remember shocking you and Lightfoot not so very long ago by expressing a belief that Proptestantism is only parenthetical and temporary.” (Life, Vol. II, p. 30-31, FJA Hort)

  43. Christ said that the gates of hell or hades would not prevail against His Church (Matt. 16:18-19). This certainly must be a historical Church! As the context and meaning in verse 19. The real question remains, what is the Church of Christ? Certainly not sects and sectarianism! To my mind at least, it is a High Church position and history, either Rome or the East (Orthodoxy), or really both. And seeking the middle…via-media has been the history of the Anglican High Church.

  44. W,
    I love the Scripture, I have read it with faith and reverance for many, many years. But Christ is the Word made/become flesh, and as HE says it is “Spirit and Truth”, so we must seek (as Barth) to find the Christ of Scripture and not just some position of the “letter”. I see this more with the “patristics” and the Church Fathers, i.e. Spirit and Truth, than I do with the modern evangelical church.

  45. I find that those who use the ‘historical church’ ideal are those who view the Church as something visible instead of mystical. The Church of Christ was never the big buildings or the power of the papal throne, but the men and women who labor for God. They may not be seen, but they are seen of God. THAT is the historical Church.

    • I agree. Regardless of what some might want to believe, the historical church is not one denomination, or even two or three. It is the body of Christ – made up of people who love God.

  46. Here is a quote I have used before, which shows that Joel’s point is ad hoc, “The mystery of the Church,” its “invisible dimension”,is “larger than the structure and organization of the Church”, which are “at the service of the mystery.” – Pope John Paul II

    • 1 Timothy 3:15 tells us that God’s household is the church of the living God. Ephesians 2 tells us we are saved by grace through faith and are members of God’s household. THAT is what the Church is – the people who are saved by grace through faith, those who make up God’s household. No mystery.

      Each book in the New Testament was written to people in different churches – including one in Rome. But that does not make Rome any better or worse or higher in authority or more right or lower in authority or more wrong than any other church. What Rome says, as well as what everyone else says needs to be checked against what Scripture says. In fact, the people in Berea (Acts 17:11) were called noble because they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

      We should take the example of the people who were called noble for testing what the great apostle Paul said against what scripture said and do the same ourselves.

      the thing is, I dont take a pope as any more authoritative than I do anyone else. I test it all against the Bible.

  47. First, I did not say that “evangelicals” were not members of the Church, but that the ‘Church’ is and must be Apostolic and historical. This is really what makes it Catholic also.

    You are arguing from a position of just biblicism, I am seeking to look at it both from the biblical and also the theological, which includes the historical. We don’t live in the first century, so we cannot simplify the truth to one time frame. This is one of the problems of an overt biblicism.

    I am not adovocating just Roman Catholic, but the whole idea and reality of the episcopacy, both East and West, and perhaps that too of the Anglican Communion.

    And before we get into the subject of salvation, the Church should be dealt with. Again, as to both its history and the spirituality of its life, etc. Before the Reformation there were some sects, but not really the Church as we see it in the Catholic sense.

    • I did not say anything about evangelicals. I really dont care what denomination someone belongs to, RCC, OCC, Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist, or any of the multitude of other Protestant churches.

      You are saying a church is and must be apostolic and historic.

      I am saying it must be based upon the word of God. Period.

      It matters not if there is apostolic succession or not, from one church leader to another. The reason is that I can see errors that the RCC (which claims apostolic succession), the OCC, the Anglican church (which also claims to be apostolic) have fallen into, based upon scripture. What matters to me is NOT whether there is apostolic succession. What matters is whether a church follows what the apostles taught us in scripture. If apostolic succession were that important to me, I’d go be an episcopalian. But I respect the word of God too much for that.

      As for historic, if joe blow starts a church up tomorrow and evangelizes and accurately teaches the word of God, making disciples who repent, turn to God through faith in Christ, and who obey christ, then that is a true church of God. It matters not if the leader(s) find a Bible that’s been buried 500 years and read it and start to follow and teach it, or if they have had someone to teach them directly and start to follow and teach the word of God. What matters is whether the Word of God is taught and followed and whether disciples are made – not how old a church is or whether it can supposedly trace its lineage back to Christ.

      While creeds and catechisms can be helpful, its more important to know the Word of God and follow it, than a summary of what someone thinks the BIble teaches.

    • Oh, the reason there were not many sects before the Reformation is the RCC was in political power and killed people who disagreed with it. Otherwise, there would have been many more sects than there were.

  48. W,
    This is simply a simplification to me, as the Church was also in the East. I can see that we are not going to make much true dialogue here. We should let this drop between us okay? I respect your Christian character too much to try and convince you of my thoughts also. But I do appreciate that you have keep this between us, for the most part, I am sure Joel has written, but you have not moderated his reply. And there is no need, least not for me.

    God Bless my brother

    • well, of COURSE its a simplification, silly. :) I’m not as familiar with the history of the church in the east. But I have a feeling it has a similar history – given what I know of “not-too-distant” recent history of the Orthodox church.

      And no. We’re not going to come to agreement, if you insist on relegating the Bible to second place, when the Bereans gave us the example to follow of searching scripture to test what was being taught, and were called noble for doing so. If what the apostle who wrote the most books of anyone in the NT should have his teachings tested, why should not the RCC teachings be measured by it?

      And Joel has stayed out of the conversation, for the most part, by his own free will. :)

      But OK. I’ll drop it.

      God bless you too!

  49. W,
    Thanks mate, I will let you have the last word on your blog. We can chat on things we can find agreement, which really is much.

    Yours,
    Fr. R.

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