Saturday, June 7, 2008

Jaffa on Thomas Jefferson's Religion:

Timothy Sandefur emails me the following from Harry V. Jaffa's Crisis of the House Divided. This quotation not only aptly sums up Jefferson's personal views as well as the theology of the Declaration of Independence, but also, in my learned opinion, with slight variation, what America's other key Founders -- Washington, J. Adams, Madison & Franklin -- believed in:

"While he repeatedly exhorted men to the ethic of Christianity--as he understood it--(Jefferson) never concealed his detestation of the theology of its churches.... Although Jefferson is the arch-apostle of religious freedom, there is no question but that he hoped and believed the effect of religious freedom would be a withering away of credence in all, or nearly all, revealed theology. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that, for Jefferson, such an attrition of what he was pleased to call superstition was essential if men were to claim their natural rights and republican freedom was to endure. The preamble to the Declaration of Independence invokes not the God of Israel or the persons of the Trinity but the God of Nature and is wholly a document of the rationalistic tradition. This God reveals himself, not in thunder from Sinai, nor through any gift of faith, inspiration, or private judgment upon sacred scriptures. He reveals himself through "self-evident" truths; i.e., through the unassisted processes of ratiocination."

P. 229

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