How can you conclude: “I think he makes a reasonable case for his position that America had a 'Christian' founding. And I think it deserves popular success along with Drs. John Fea's and Gregg Frazer's books on the matter” when he never defines what “Christian” is and never defines what “founding” is??? For what, exactly, does he make a reasonable case? Is it that various people with their own idiosyncratic notions of the word “Christian” can believe that at some point in history there was some kind of ostensibly religious influence on the geographical area known as “America”? So what? What is the significance of this claim – and who couldn’t have said this without offering any “evidence” at all? What makes this a “nifty” book? You, yourself, speculate and struggle with various possible meanings in your review – should that be the case if a book is well-written, “a reasonable case,” “nifty” and a valuable contribution to the subject?
In his comment, Mr. Van Dyke points out two of several potential meanings for “founding” and notes that the one Mark is ostensibly claiming doesn’t apply at all to the Constitution – but Mark’s overall point (given the last 2/3 of the book) is TO apply it to the Constitution. Most of the book is about how the Constitution has been improperly interpreted and applied and is based on the idea that there was a Christian founding of it! This is why what he means by “founding” and “Christian” really matters and cannot be glossed over. What you mean by “Christian” also matters because his primary audience is people who have a particular perspective on what that means and he, like Barton, speaks to them in their terminology while apparently NOT meaning what they do – so it is misleading at best, and deceptive at worst.
Note that in Mark’s “comment,” his response regarding Washington is again simply that he wasn’t a deist! Again he posits the false dichotomy of deist or Christian – but again uses the qualifier “orthodox” to allow Washington to still be a Christian (whatever that is) of some sort. I, of course, also argue that he wasn’t a deist – that’s not hard to show – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he was a “Christian” of any sort unless you posit the false dichotomy. It would require some evidence that shows him to be some sort of Christian – though that’s impossible to do if you don’t have a definition of “Christian.”
[By the way, in your email to me, you say that Washington was not a “strict deist” – how was he a deist in any way? He denied both of the fundamental beliefs of deism: absentee God and no written revelation from God (along with the corollary that Mark emphasizes: criticism of Christianity). Why say he wasn’t a “strict” deist instead of just saying he wasn’t a deist? What evidence is there of any deism on his part?]
If being a good or virtuous person makes Washington a “Christian” – if that’s the definition – then it’s meaningless from a religious perspective. Many Jews would be “Christians” and so would many Muslims and many Buddists and many who have no religious beliefs whatsoever. So what meaning does it have? This is why what he means by “Christian” really matters and cannot be glossed over.
Re Jasper Adams: it’s worth noting that he sent his book to Madison and asked for an endorsement of his thesis (that America was founded on Christian principles), but Madison refused to do so.More discussion to come. And also check out the discussion in the comments here.