Bryan Fischer
June 22, 2011
Were the Founders Christians? Yep, no doubt about it
By Bryan Fischer

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Meaningless and mindless controversy continues to swirl over whether the Founding Fathers were Christians. The meme among secular fundamentalists is that they were deists, and Christians were precious few among them.

This view could not possibly be more wrong. Of the 55 framers of the Constitution, we know as a matter of historical record that 51 or 52 of them swore on oath to evangelical statements of faith, and of the other three, all sounded much more like Christians than deists on numerous important occasions.

John Eidsmoe, in his thoroughly documented work, Christianity and the Constitution, points out that the first Great Awakening in the 1740s had left deism in tatters and in ill repute in colonial America, and in many states at the time of the Constitutional Convention deists were not even allowed to hold public office.

According to Dr. M.E. Bradford of the University of Dallas, of the 55 framers, 28 were Episcopalians, 8 were Presbyterians, 7 were Congregationalists, and there were two each of Lutherans, Dutch Reformed, Methodists and Roman Catholics. That left, by Bradford's counting, three deists and one founder whose religious views cannot be determined definitively.

Don't forget that at this time, most churches required sworn adherence to strict doctrinal statements, meaning all 51 of these men swore an oath before Almighty God that they believed the Bible to be God's revelation to mankind and that they themselves believed Jesus Christ to be the Son of God and that they trusted in him for their eternal salvation.

That leaves, at the very outside, three possible deists: Hugh Williamson of North Carolina, and James Wilson and Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania.

All three studied at one time for the ministry. Williamson was licensed to preach by the Presbyterian Church, and conducted church services.

Deism teaches that God wound up the universe like a clock and then checked out, leaving it and men to their own devices. But if Franklin was a deist, he drifted into deistic apostasy at the Constitutional Convention when he made a passionate appeal to his fellow delegates to open each day's session in prayer.

He reminded them of the war to defend our newly declared independence, in which "all of us...observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor." Deists don't talk that. The whole point of deism is that God is nowhere to be found intervening in human events. According to deists, we're on our own.

Franklin, of course, wasn't done:

    "Have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? or (sic) do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?"

Again, deists just didn't talk like that. Franklin should have been brought up on charges of heresy by the keepers of the deist flame. So I'm afraid we've got to cross Franklin off the list.

That gets us down to one possibility, James Wilson. He baptized his children as Episcopalians and was buried in an Episcopal churchyard, at a time when the price of admission to the burial courtyard was church membership.

In law lectures Wilson delivered at the College of Philadelphia in 1789, Wilson said that the law of God has been communicated to man "by reason and conscience...and by the sacred oracles." This law, "as promulgated by the holy scriptures," is "revealed law."

Human law, said this last, best hope of secular fundamentalists everywhere, "must rest its authority, ultimately, upon the authority of that law, which is divine." The divine law upon which all human law must rest, said Wilson, is the "law of God."

By my reckoning, that makes our poor, misguided deist friends 0 for 55 at the Constitutional Convention. Better luck next time. In the meantime, the truth is that the Constitution was framed by Bible-believing Christians who believed that American law must of necessity rest upon the bedrock of the Holy Scriptures.

To our secularist friends: man up, get over yourselves, and deal with it.

(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)

© Bryan Fischer

 

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