Sunday, August 30, 2009

Books and Pamphlets on Religion and Philosophy in George Washington’s Library

Mt. Vernon lists them here. It's an interesting list; I don't think it sheds much light on what GW exactly believed regarding his religious specifics. I've seen both sides of the debate try to make hay of the list. D. James Kennedy et al. focused on all of the pious sermons in the list. Indeed Kennedy liked to tell people how GW was a "collector of sermons." And the skeptics focused on the works of Joseph Priestley and the other "infidel" philosophers.

Much of the contents of said library were given to GW.


Tom Van Dyke said...

I agree. Possession is not endorsement.

I particularly enjoyed Richard Brothers'

‘A REVEALED KNOWLEDGE OF THE PROPHECIES AND TIMES, Book the First, wrote [sic] under the direction of the LORD GOD and published by His Sacred Command, it being the first sign of Warning for the benefit of All Nations; Containing with other great and remarkable things not revealed to any other Person on Earth, the Restoration of the Hebrews to Jerusalem by the year of 1798 under their revealed Prince and Prophet. London, Printed in the year of Christ 1794.’

Brothers was into the Lost Tribes of Israel and that Anglo-Israel thing like Herbert W. Armstrong. As we see here, he claims to have a New Revelation directly from God, one eerily similar to a later prophet from the 1800s who gets discussed occasionally around here.

Jonathan Rowe said...

He's another guy like Emmanuel Swedenborg, whose work GW also possessed.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Perhaps, GW's openness to diverse views was his strength as President of our nation.

As to personal conviction, possibly we will be different in our preferences, in regards to revelation and reason.

I prefer reason these days, as it holds 'truth' that can be discussed and debated, which is the foundation of democracy.

But, when one has a 'revelation' from God (a transcentdent realm), then it is hard to disprove what is "by faith", the ones who adhere to "faith" apart from reason, cannot be reasoned with.

These have accepted something that they believe is a higher truth or view. I fear for these, as revelation, such as this, is cultish. And it leaves people open to being led apart from their reason, which can be damaging.

Those that are protective of our liberties, must defend against such "revelation", as it is the foundation of Islam. But, it seems to be also the foundation of Christianity, as well.

Jared A. Farley said...

I agree. Possession is not endorsement.

However, I do think it might suggest something. To illustrate, my evangelical friend's bookshelf has multiple volumes from Revs. Billy Graham, Joel Osteen, Rick Warren and others. I too have books by Revs. Graham and Warren and other evangelicals, but I also have books by liberal theologians, like Bishop John Shelby Spong, Marcus Borg, James Luther Adams and Rev. Forrest Church.

My point is that theological liberals tend to be more tolerant and open-minded than theological conservatives. So while I do not think it is blasphemous to have conservative ministers and theologians on my bookshelf, my friend would think is blashphemous for her to have books that call into question her absolutist faith (meaning faith is defined as accepting what is "true" which is by definition what conservative religion is about).

So while I would not say that anything on George Washington's bookshelf is iron proof of his beliefs one way or the other...the diversity of theological works suggests something to me. Especially those from the u/Unitarian authors.

Andrew said...

David Barton over at wallbuilders has quite a collection of early American literature. Theologically it is hard to argue against america's Godly heritage . Thanks for sharing your thoughts...