Saturday, February 6, 2016

Paul Boller, RIP

He died in 2014. Blog brother Ray Soller tipped me off to this. I wrote Boller a note about Peter Lillback and Boller replied. If I can find the letter I might post the image.

Boller wrote a book which became the standard bearer on George Washington and religion that argued GW was *some* kind of Deist. The book doesn't argue GW was a Deist of the absentee landlord type. But perhaps Boller's book does deserve some blame for later scholars who mistakenly conclude GW was.

Lillback's book, self published (nothing necessarily wrong with that, but it was badly in need of an editor) attacks Boller in a mean spirited tone. Lillback's book is not without its virtues. It really does make a great reference for George Washington's quotations. And it does "step up" the game in terms of meticulously examining the scholarly record.

I was surprised by the polemical tone of Lillback's book because when I have seen him speak via video clips he comes across as a kind and gentle man with a very civil tone.

And I suppose, fighting fire with fire, I adopted the same harsh tone in my criticisms of Lillback.

I didn't want and do not want people to think Lillback's over 1000 page book gets the last word or demolishes Boller. He claims to have demolished the thesis that Washington was a "Deist." And if we define Deism as absentee landlord deity-ism, a creed that is bitterly dismissive of all revealed religions, then Lillback did indeed do this.

However, Lillback and those of his worldview have high standards for what it means to be a "Christian." This is why Lillback was desperate to prove GW an "orthodox Trinitarian Christian."

That's where he shoots too far. We might term GW a "theistic rationalist," a "Christian-Deist." Or perhaps a "Christian" in the very ecumenical, latitudinarian wing of the Anglican Church which downplays doctrine and really doesn't care too much about notions like the Trinity.

3 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

Boller wrote a book which became the standard bearer on George Washington and religion that argued GW was *some* kind of Deist. The book doesn't argue GW was a Deist of the absentee landlord type. But perhaps Boller's book does deserve some blame for later scholars who mistakenly conclude GW was.

I suppose that's why I get so annoyed with the obsession with David Barton, who is small potatoes and has had no measurable effect on the republic or the academy.

Boller was a major-leaguer, and the harm persists.

Brian Tubbs said...

Well said, Tom, and true!

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