Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Book review of Gregg Frazer's The Religious Beliefs of America's Founders

Gary Scott Smith has posted a review of Frazer's book over at The University Bookman: Founders' Faith: None of the Above.  Smith points out the strength of Frazier's approach to studying the faith of our nation's founding fathers -- he doesn't fall into the trap of trying to get the founders to fit into our own political and theological categories.


Jonathan Rowe said...


Thanks for this. It's "Frazer."

Mark D. said...

Oooops! I'll make the change! Sorry for the typo.

Tom Van Dyke said...

"Theistic rationalists, by contrast, believed that God not only created the world but actively directs it and intervenes in human affairs. They often stressed God’s providence and insisted that he heard and answered prayers. Although theistic rationalists denied that Jesus was God, they viewed him more highly than deists, often calling him a great moral teacher. They also had a much higher view of the Bible than deists, arguing that its parts that accorded with reason were truly from God."

Another Protestant Pope, deciding who's "Christian" and who ain't. Which is fine for a theologian, but above the historian's pay grade.

Further, we have no record of Washington of Madison's view of Jesus. As for John Adams, it's a difference that makes no difference, because through the end of his presidency, he was still maquerading as a Trinitarian with language like this 1798 Thxgiving proclamation:

"I have therefore thought fit to recommend, and I do hereby recommend, that Wednesday, the 9th day of May next, be observed throughout the United States as a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that the citizens of these States, abstaining on that day from their customary worldly occupations, offer their devout addresses to the Father of Mercies agreeably to those forms or methods which they have severally adopted as the most suitable and becoming; that all religious congregations do, with the deepest humility, acknowledge before God the manifold sins and transgressions with which we are justly chargeable as individuals and as a nation, beseeching Him at the same time, of His infinite grace, through the Redeemer of the World, freely to remit all our offenses, and to incline us by His Holy Spirit to that sincere repentance and reformation which may afford us reason to hope for his inestimable favor and heavenly benediction..."

Which leaves us--yet again!--with our old standbys Jefferson and Franklin, whose [lack of] beliefs were well known then as now.


As for the other handful including the estimable Gouverneur Morris, they are quite outnumbered by the orthodox like Henry, Jay, Sherman and of course Samuel Adams.

Much ado about little except for those to whom the Trinity is a big deal, and the secularists who want to use Frazer as a political cudgel against the Religious Right.