Ben Franklin, the non deist

It is often thought that many of the founding fathers were deists. While there were a few like Jefferson, there weren’t many. Benjamin Franklin spoke thus at the Constitutional Convention:

In the beginning of the contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine Protection. — Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance. I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that “except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel.

Annuit Coeptis, found on the Great Seal of the United States, is translated “He [God] has favored our undertakings.” Only those who believe God was personally involved in governing the world could say such a thing.

Freeing the Public Mind

In 1924 in a speech at the unveiling of the Equestrian Statue of Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury, President Coolidge remarked on the generation that secured the United States’ independence:

It is of a great deal of significance that the generation which fought the American Revolution had seen a very extensive religious revival. They had heard the preaching of Jonathan Edwards. They had seen the great revival meetings that were inspired by the preaching of Whitefield. The religious experiences of those days made a profound impression upon the great body of the people. They made new thoughts and created new interests. They freed the public mind, through a deeper knowledge and more serious contemplation of the truth. By calling the people to righteousness they were a direct preparation for self-government. It was for a continuation of this work that Francis Asbury was raised up.

The religious movement he represented was distinctly a movement to reach the great body of the people. Just as our Delcaraationof Independence asserts that all men are created free, so it seems to me the founders of this movement were inspred by the thought that all men were worthy to hear the Word, worthy to be sought out and brought to salvation. It is this motive that took their preachers among the poor and neglected, even to criminals in the jails. As our ideal has been to bring all men to freedom, so their ideal was to bring all men to salvation. [emphases mine]

The connection between salvation and freedom, in that order, is foundational. Free societies are made up of free men in Christ, and this was publicly recognized by a President less than a century ago! Is it any wonder that this republic was founded by men like Washington, Adams and Madison, and not like Bush, Clinton, and Obama? Could there be a greater contrast between the way Obama’s rose to political power voting “Present” in the Illinois Senate and the risk of life and fortune our founding fathers endured in the American Revolution? George Whitefield has been called “a second GW” for good reason because he, by God’s grace, helped create and shape a people with an understanding and desire for freedom. It’s certainly possible for unconverted people to enjoy the freedoms of a Christian society (or what’s left of one in our case), but that’s not how such societies are created (n.b. Middle East meddlers). For this we need a great company of preachers with the hammer of the word of God. Every Tea Party and political mama-bear grizzly needs to know this. We don’t return to Constitutional sanity without first returning to biblical bedrock.

Living Apostolic Germs

“Furthermore, the apostolic Christianity is preformative, and contains the living germs of all the following periods, personages, and tendencies. It holds up the highest standard of doctrine and discipline; it is the inspiring genius of all true progress; it suggests to  its peculiar problem with the power to solve it. Christianity can never outgrow Christ, bu it grows in Christ; theology cannot go beyond the word of God, but it must ever progress in the understanding and application of the word of God. The three leading apostles represent not only the three stages of the apostolic church, but also as many ages and types of Christianity, and yet they are all present in every age and every type.”  Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, p. 199.

The Joy of Stats

What is so cool about this video, in addition to what it reveals, is what it conceals and assumes. Long life and prosperity are not zero sum games. A fitting early Advent reflection on the result of the coming Christ, and the assurance that his enemies are being subdued (1 Cor. 15:25). Peace on earth, goodwill toward men. HT: Right Mind

Generational Education

One of the most important truths for Christians in our day to burn into their minds is the religious nature of education. Not the religious nature of some education or the religious nature of private education or the religious of explicitly religious education, but the religious nature of all education, period.

The is a particularly difficult truth not on account of its clarity but rather because of the cost of believing it. For Christians who want to think at all, the public education system is a wreck, and not simply because of the literacy levels of graduating seniors (though that ought to be enough). A seventeen year old can’t get her ears pierced with permission from her parents, but she can get a complimentary cab ride and abortion under the supervision her high school, without her parents ever knowing about it. This is the law in Washington State, and the head of the clinic at Ballard High School, with whom I just spoke, defends it as a “best practice”. The law allows it and therefore the high school enforces it. If, as the child’s parent, you disagree and insist the school inform you regarding your child’s abortion, too bad. You have the right to know about ear piercing, but the death of the fetus is none of your business unless your child decides to tell you. Calm down and be assured there are laws about these sorts of things. Continue reading

Recovering the Puritanical

“With respect to sex and marriage, the normal Puritan view was a robust and healthy one. The Rev. William Gouge, in Of domestical duties (London, 1634), used Proverbs 5:18, 19, to express the joy and beauty of marital sex: “Let thy fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times, and be thou ravished always with her love.” The Puritans often spoke of marital sex as one of the great delights and joys among earthly blessings. Frye tells us that a “favorite Biblical passage cited by Puritan churchmen is Genesis XXVI. 8 where it is recorded that ‘Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife.'”

A typical employment of this passage is that made by William Gouge, who uses it for an attack upon Stoical abstinence–“A disposition,” said the Puritan Gouge, “no way warranted by the “Word.” Thomas Gataker provides a final and summarizing statement of Puritanism’s anti-ascentiticism in a marriage sermon published in 1620. Gataker is discussing the Christian life, with particular reference to marriage, and observes that it is a tactic of the demonic to misrepresent Christianity as a damper placed upon the joys of living; in other words, to misrepresent it as opposed to human happiness. This false picture of Christianity, says the Puritan Gataker, is “an illusion of Sathan, whereby he usually perwades the Merry Greekes of this world; that if they should once devotoe themselves to the Service of Jesus Christ, that hen they must bid an everlasting farewell to all mirth and delight; that then all their merry dayes are gone; that in the kingdome of Christ, there is nothing, but sighing and groning, and fasting and prayer. But see here the contrary; even in the kingdome of Christ, and in his House, there is marrying and giving in marriage, drinking of wine, feasting, and rejoicing even in the very face of Christ.””  (Rushdoony, The Flight from Humanity)

Rushdoony writes this in the context of a notable exception to the typical Puritan delight in marital love and other physical blessings, Michael Wigglesworth. Wigglesworth does aptly represent the false impression for the that merry lot who built a brewery among the first buildings of America. Here is to recovering Puritanism!

Calvinian, not Jeffersonian, Democray

Loraine Boettner notes the connection between Calvinism and republican (representative) government:

Politically, Calvinism has been the chief source of modern republican government. Calvinism and republicanism are related to each other as cause and effect; and where a people are possessed of the former, the later will soon be developed. Calvin himself held that the Church, under God, was a spiritual republic; and certainly he was a republican in theory. James I was well aware of the effects of Calvinism when he said; “Presbytery agreeth as well with monarchy as God with the Devil.” Bankcroft speaks of “the political character of Calvinism, which with one consent and with instinctive judgment the monarchs of that day feared as republicanism.” Another American historian, John Fiske, has written, “It would be hard to overrate the debt which mankind owes to Calvin. The spiritual father of Coligny, of William the Silent, and of Cromwell, must occupy a foremost rank among the champions of modern democracy . . .  The promulgation of this theology was one of the longest steps that mankind has ever taken toward personal freedom.”

Continue reading

Animals Love Calvinism

According to McFetridge (Calvinism in History), the American Puritans,

Among all the people in the American colonies, they (the Puritans, Calvinists of New England) stood morally without peers. They were the men and the women of conscience, of sterling convictions. They were not, indeed, greatly given to sentimentalism. With mere spectacular observances in religion they had no sympathy. . . . All their thoughts and relations were imbued with [their religion]. Not only men, but beasts also, were made to feel its favorable influences. Cruelty to animals was a civil offense. In this respect they were two centuries in advance of the bulk of mankind.

Diversity by Isolation

“Indeed, the map of medieval European “states” looks remarkably like a map of hunting-and-gathering cultures in Europe about five thousand years ago. The reason is that, unlike China or India, for example, Europe is not one large plain but a multitude of fertile valleys surrounded by mountains and dense forests, each often serving as the core area of an independent state. Wherever geographic barriers limit communications, cultural diversity always arises.”  –Rodney Stark, The Victory of Reason, 83.