An overwhelming number of posts in this blog deal with the topic of which Founders were actually "Christian" in an orthodox or evangelical sense. The challenge in determining this is evident.
First, we do not all agree what constitutes a "Christian." The definition of that word, particularly when one throws in adjectives like "evangelical," "orthodox," and "born again," is often a moving target.
Second, we can't directly ask or interview the Founders, so we must rely on the historical record (including their writings and speeches) to deduce a conclusion. The problem here is that opinions tend to change over time. We see this in the slavery issue, for example. George Washington was a typical, indifferent, racist slave owner at the beginning of his life. By the end of his life, his views on race and slavery were far different - and much more respectable.
I would like to propose (for the sake of some degree of agreement) that we establish a BROAD definition of "Christian." Since I don't see myself as qualified to define the term, I'll turn to the apostle Paul for some help.
In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul wrote that the resurrection of Jesus was central to the Christian faith. Indeed, according to Paul, "if Christ be not risen, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith is in vain" (see I Corinthians 15).
In his letter to the church at Rome, Paul wrote: "If you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved" (Romans 10:9).
And the first time we see the word "Christian" (the book of Acts), it is used to describe followers of Jesus, who held him to be their "Lord," who had risen from the dead. That was the message they were preaching.
So....I propose that we define the term "Christian" NOT according to the Nicene Creed or any other orthodox creed in the centuries since the Bible, but instead stick to Paul's requirement of what it takes to be "saved" and the ORIGINAL historical understanding of the word "Christian."
For our purposes, then, we will consider any Founding Father to be a "Christian" who:
1) Believed Jesus of Nazareth to be the "Lord" and the divine Son of God.
2) Believed Jesus to have died for the sins of the world
3) Believed that Jesus rose from the dead
If a person sincerely embraced the above three points, then it's safe (in my opinion) to consider him or her a "Christian" in at least a basic sense. We need not concern ourselves with the specifics of their views on baptism, the Trinity, Nicene Creed, Calvinism, "universal salvation," etc.
Did they see Jesus as the divine and risen Lord?
Some of my Christian friends are likely to point out that the Bible requires repentance for salvation (very true) and others are likely to argue for baptism (not true, in my understanding of Scripture). But we need to leave these things aside for now, because we can't know the hearts of people, and only God can determine in the end who goes to heaven or doesn't.
For historical inquiry, all we can determine is whether the Founders saw themselves as "Christian" and whether their understanding of that term lines up, at least in a basic sense, with what the Bible teaches - in this case, Paul specifically.
As always, I welcome your feedback and comments.
**For more on defining Christianity, read "What do Christians Believe?" and "What is a Christian?"