WEREN’T WE FOUNDED BY DEISTS, UNRULY ADVENTURERS AND RELIGIOUS CASTAWAYS?
This stereotype presented in TV docu-dramas and history classrooms throughout the nation is one of the greatest defamations of national character ever perpetrated upon a people.
The influence of Deism in America was minimal until the nineteenth century when it made inroads through the Unitarian Church and the atheistic philosophy of the French Revolution. During our Founding period, however, it had little influence. According to historian Perry Miller, Deism was strictly “an exotic plant” imported from Europe which did not flourish here. This distinguished historian also makes the point that the colonial clergy presented to the people a religious rationale for the American Revolution which united them behind its goals. Deism was incapable of producing such a phenomenon. It professed a belief in one God but denied the divine origin of Scriptures. Its weak philosophy of a non-active, spectator God who left all the affairs of the world to human whim was no match for the powerful Biblical faith of the majority of our people in the Founding Father generation. Even Jefferson and Franklin, the two men most often quoted as being Deists, give little credence to the view in their writings. Undoubtedly, both of these men did imbibe a mixture of European religious heresy, but the predominant influence upon their world continued to be Christian.
Franklin’s Plea for Public Prayer
In the summer of 1787 a feeling of desperation and deadlock had descended upon the Constitutional Convention. Men from various states were planning to leave and it would be years before they could gather again for another try at bringing the loosely-knit confederation colonies together to form a republic.
On June 28, 1787, as the Convention was ready to adjourn in dissension, a wise old man addressed its President, George Washington, with quiet simplicity:
“How has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly appealing to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain,
when we were sensible to danger, we had daily prayers in this room for Divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard and they were graciously answered …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 the house, they labor in vain that build it.’ …I firmly believe this…”
Benjamin Franklin’s words were heeded and the Convention went on to complete its task. Although Franklin is often classified as a Deist, it is clear from the above statements that he had been deeply influenced by the Christian world-view and such great Christian ministers as George Whitefield.
It could be well argued that many Christians today have acted more like Deists than the few accused of this heresy in our founding, because today we often give lip service to the Lord Jesus Christ over all things, but then act as though He were an absentee, distant monarch just biding His time to claim His throne!
Don’t Believe What You See?
Regarding the charge that wild adventurers and womanizers roamed the land in early America, there is little need for refutation. On the frontier, starting in the times of the Puritans, some scouts and settlers did precede the church and families, and there were some atrocities perpetrated upon the Indians and some rowdy settlements. But as soon as settlements were established and churches were formed, the immoral and rowdy were made subject to the rule of the law. The Christian women of the community, especially, demanded it. Our TV generation has absorbed too much western cowboy-fever, most of it fictitious distortions of true life in early America. The US News and World Report (May 21, 1979) reports that the American people receive most of their knowledge of history from watching TV docu-dramas. And most of these docu-dramas bear little resemblance to the true story of our history. Only by going back and reading the original documents, as you are going to be challenged to do in this study of America’s Christian History, can you determine the real story.
The truth is that those that saved their money and possessed the fortitude to settle this country were for the most part character- filled Christians. Rev. R.J. Rushdoony points out that it took two
years living expenses just to cross and settle America and that the well-established families with the Puritan work ethic and Christian faith were the true hardy breed that settled our country. These Godly men and women, due due to their family orientation, free-enterprise spirit, and Christian discipline, maintained cultural dominion over the sin-loving reprobates that we read so much about. Our history is evidence of the fact that, in the long-run, nothing can thwart an individual who has an understanding of his Commission from God to subdue the earth and who believes God for the victory.
Computers for Christ – Chicago