Apostates-in-Chief By Roderick on October 2, 2007 13 Jon Stewart just said that all U.S. presidents have been Christians. That would come as a surprise to Jefferson, and probably to Lincoln as well. Democracy, Jove's Witnesses, Left and Right
If we’re defining Christian as trinitarian, biblical inerrantists then we’ll have to exclude George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and many, many more.
Gregg Frazer’s piece over at Claremont comes in handy here. Jonathan Rowe has been pushing the Theistic Rationalist thesis pretty hard over at his site and at Positive Liberty.
Jon Stewart just said that all U.S. presidents have been Christians
Considering that religion has historically been mostly used to justify ruling-class oppression this is very easy to believe; I’m surprised to learn that Lincoln wasn’t a Xian.
I believe they all professed to be Christians, including Jefferson if I’m not mistaken. Ellis Sandoz’s book on the founders is quite good, and it appears more accurate to say that the founders were steeped in the Christian and Classical traditions.
If we’re defining Christian as trinitarian, biblical inerrantists
No, I think that definition woul be too narrow. I don’t think Jesus was a trinitarian, biblical inerrantist ….
I believe they all professed to be Christians, including Jefferson if I’m not mistaken
Lincoln expressed skepticism about Christianity privately. He didn’t do so publicly (doing so would have hurt his political chances), but he avoided making public pro-Christian (as opposed to generically religious) statements also.
Jefferson said that because he respected Jesus’s ethical teachings, he was a “Christian” in the same sense that he was an Epicurean. But he doesn’t seem to have accepted any distinctively Christian (as opposed to deist) religious tenets. Jefferson also authored a rewritten version of the New Testament that included the ethical teachings but cut out all the miracles etc. He wasn’t as explicit as Paine (again probbaly for politically prudential reasons) but his views seem to have been substantially the same as Paine’s.
“No, I think that definition woul be too narrow. I don’t think Jesus was a trinitarian, biblical inerrantist ….”
Then you’d be disagreeing with the vast majority of the Christian world. The Protestants and Catholics who are trinitarians and biblical inerrantists immediately disregard as “Christian” those who don’t hold those ideas (e.g. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, the LDS church, the unitarians). If those folks aren’t considered Christian by the Christian majority, then the founders, and many Presidents, wouldn’t (shouldn’t) be considered that way by them either.
This completely undercuts the Christian Nation folks over at Wallbuilders and Eads Home.
Then you’d be disagreeing with the vast majority of the Christian world
Not for the first time!
I’ve read Dr. Long’s writing on Chrisitanity, Jesus, gods, and the Bible before, I have some idea of what he thinks about each subject. I personally think that whether you accept or reject the fundamentals of the Christianity that’s espoused by the majority of Christians (orthodoxy, mere Christianity), that it simply makes the best sense of the evidence that their interpretation of their own documents is correct. Their interpretation of their documents would lead them to believe that God is complex and likely a triune God with hypostatic persons, or some other “trinity-esque” explanation. That Jesus is God and fully man. That unitarians are incorrect and ignore scripture.
Deviations away from their interpretation of their documents are really just deviations, and those who hold that those deviations are another acceptable exegetical history are wrong. This is why the Christian Nation crowd are their own worst enemies (probably not a bad thing if that meant that they’d lose political influence, but it doesn’t mean that), and that those who take what they say uncritically (Jon Stewart for example) will be just as wrong as they are.
it simply makes the best sense of the evidence that their interpretation of their own documents is correct
You might have a case if you were referring to Pat Robertson’s books or the Left Behind series, but as it happens modern Christians didn’t write any of the Bible. In fact, the earliest book of the New Testament, the Gospel of Mark, was written about 70 A.D, and the Nicene Creed which mostly standardized today’s orthodox Christianity didn’t arrive for hundreds of years afterward.
Perhaps, but when we’re are talking about Christians, or talking to people who self-identify as Christian we’re generally talking about modern people. This is the issue with Christians of today wanting to draft the Founding Fathers to their banner, while denying that banner to those who deviate from their fundamentals.
What kind of sense does a statement like, “Thomas Jefferson was a Christian” make? If a modern person is saying it to another modern person, in the most common occurrences (i.e. outside of specialization) the interpretation of that word “Christian” is going to be of the modern Christian.
It seems a bit circular to say that we should defer to the Christians’ own interpretation of their texts (and thereby exclude from the ranks of Christians those who disagree), because in order to identify the Christians’ own interpretation of their texts we first have to identify who the Christians are. I don’t think Christianity should be defined so broadly as to include Jefferson, but I also think it shouldn’t be interpreted so narrowly as to exclude Jesus and his early followers.
It is circular when we’re just using the terms, but I’m going by majority rules, and I’m qualifying with modernity because of the origin of the discussion (i.e. Stewart).
By the way, did you end up getting that e-mail this time, and did you give any consideration to the requests here? If you’re still reading at this point I’d like to request, “Why Libertarians Believe There is Only One Right,” as well.
I’ve been trying to collect a lot of your work and I hate having good missing pieces.
Also I’d dispute the claim that Jesus and his early followers were remarkably distinct in terms of doctrine from their modern day “co-religioinsts” (for lack of a better term). But I don’t feel like getting into all that here with you, Anon2, and Sergio.