From Guest Blogger Jim Goswick
A.K.A. Our Founding Truth
The following was sent to me by one of our most faithful blog readers and commentators, who is also a passionate advocate for the Christian Nation thesis. Here is the first guest post by Mr. Jim Goswick, or as most of us know him, the one and only OUR FOUNDING TRUTH:
At American Creation, Jon Rowe comments:
"To him who believes in the Existence and Attributes physical and moral of a God, there can be no obscurity or perplexity in defining the Law of Nature to be his wise benign and all powerful Will, discovered by Reason."
– John Adams to Thomas Boylston Adams, March 19, 1794. Adams Papers (microfilm), reel 377, Library of Congress. Seen in James H. Hutson’s, “The Founders on Religion,” p. 132.
It seems this one quote has made the rounds. This, in fact, is the one quote of John Adams used to support his claim Adams was a rationalist. However, Adams only refers to one part of The Laws of Nature and the Laws of Nature's God, which doesn't clearly point out reason is superior to revelation, rather, that reason (the law of nature) is God's perfect will, which happens to be true. God has given two revelations to man; reason and revelation.
The word "rationalist" may not have existed in the 18th century. Most likely, a rationalist was lumped in with Deists, who believed in the "clockmaker" god, disbelieved in miracles, and believed reason was king. Benjamin Franklin considered himself a rationalist (believed in providence), but called himself a deist:
"But I was scarce fifteen, when, after doubting by turns several points as I found them disputed in the different books I read, I began to doubt of the Revelation itself. Some books against Deism fell into my hands; they were said to be the substance of the sermons which had been preached at Boyle’s Lectures. It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them. For the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to be much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist….I began to suspect that this doctrine, though it might be true, was not very useful."
- Franklin's Biography.
It appears Franklin was confused, or there was no term (rationalist) available at the time. Franklin, most likely was a rationalist; John Adams is a different story. Adams believed in the miracles Jesus Christ:
"The great and almighty Author of nature, who at first established those rules which regulate the World, can as easily Suspend those Laws whenever his providence sees sufficient reason for such suspension. This can be no objection, then, to the miracles of J [Jesus] C [Christ]."
- Adams Diary, March, 1756.
What Franklin actually was, John Adams mocked, showing he wasn't with him:
"All Religions are tolerated in America, said M.M., and the Ambassadors have in all Courts a Right to a Chappell in their own Way. But Mr. Franklin never had any. -- No said I, laughing, because Mr. F. had no -- I was going to say, what I did not say, and will not say here. I stopped short and laughed. -- No, said Mr. M., Mr. F. adores only great Nature, which has interested a great many People of both Sexes in his favour. -- Yes, said I, laughing, all the Atheists, Deists and Libertines, as well as the Philosophers and Ladies are in his Train -- another Voltaire and Hume." [bold face mine]
- John Adams. Diary, June 23, 1779.
The problem with John Adams is another quote contradicting the quote above could be right around the corner. As long as it's before he retired, it's relevant. Here is more from the most revealing work on the Christianity of John Adams:
"Adams seemed satisfied with Middleton's position. The latter charges that Waterland, instead of vindicating the Scriptures, had himself furnished matter for new scandal. ("No revelation can contain anything false, irrational or immoral," Adams asserted.) Middleton accuses Tindal of attempting to abolish Christianity and set up reason as a national religion. ("Abolish Christianity! Set up reason!" Adams snapped: "The authority of reason is not stern enough to keep rebellious appetites and passions in subjection.") Tindal, Middleton contends, betrayed his ignorance of antiquity by magnifying the moderation of pagan governments.
("Deistical cant," Adams reinforced him, adding, "Atheists are the
most cruel persecutors.") The intolerance of this "rational Protestant,"
Middleton jeers, is even worse than Romish popery. ("Deistical
popery," Adams chimed in.)"
- John Adams The Prophets of Progress ZOLTAN HARASZTI Harvard
University Press Cambridge, Massachusetts 1952 Copyright)1952, by the President mid Fellows of Harvard College Distributed in Great Britain by Geoffrey Cumberlege. Oxford University Press London.
Adams says rationalism isn't even Christianity! Man's reason cannot be ultimate truth, and Adams knew it. Here, is more on Adams' Prophets of Progress:
"D[isney].; Mr. Peirce believes that the Epistle was written in Hebrew, and that it was probably translated into Greek by St. Luke.
A[dams].: This is the most candid and the most plausible opinion. But the
question recurs, why was the original destroyed? What suspicions of
interpolation, and indeed of fabrication, might be confuted if we had
the originals! In an age or in ages when fraud, forgery, and perjury
were considered as lawful means of propagating truth by philosophers,
legislators, and theologians, what may not be suspected?
5.: All those who allege that this Epistle was not St. Paul's have done
it only to account for the style and manner of writing, and not from
any one single evidence."
It is clear, the context Adams is referring to is the book of Hebrews, not the entire Bible, of which Adams did believe was corrupted. Was Adams a rationalist? I think not.