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America's Founders, Atheism, Jesus Is the Hope of the World

The Founding of America: Secular or Christian?

This blog post is part of a chapter in my book, The Narrow Way: Biblical and Historical Proof that God IS Great, which is a response to Christopher Hitchens’ book, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. There’s been a running debate over the ideological foundations behind the founding of America. What was the source of our freedom? Where did the Founding Fathers obtain their political wisdom? Was it from a place of skepticism, secularism, or even atheism, or were the Founders all born again Christians? This is my contribution to the subject.

Just for the purpose of definition, the “Narrow Way” that I speak of is a way that runs between atheism/secularism and false religion. The Narrow Way abhors the false way of connecting to God as much as it abhors the total rejection of God. In fact, false religion is even more dangerous than atheism because it presents a false image of God that isn’t based on the Bible, but on extra-biblical philosophies, man-made traditions, dreams, visions, scientific “truths,” etc . . . These false religions have been responsible for most of the suffering and bloodshed throughout history, but the Narrow Way of grace, love, and truth has blessed all societies where its followers have remained steadfast and faithful to the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ. (I defined this in the beginning chapters of my book, but since readers don’t have access to those chapters I thought I should define it for them.)

With that in mind, here are my thoughts….

The Narrow Way in a Time of Revolution

Those with the power to elect our presidents and congressmen—and many who themselves get elected—believe that dinosaurs lived two by two upon Noah’s ark, that light from distant galaxies was created en route to the earth, and that the first members of our species were fashioned out of dirt and divine breath, in a garden with a talking snake, by the hand of an invisible God.

Among developed nations, America stands alone in these convictions. Our country now appears, as at no other time in her history, like a lumbering, bellicose, dim-witted giant. Anyone who cares about the fate of civilization would do well to recognize that the combination of great power and great stupidity is simply terrifying, even to one’s friends. —Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation

 

Those on the Narrow Way played an integral part in the founding of America. In fact, I would argue that it’s even questionable whether the United States would have been able to succeed without their active presence in the colonies, because Enlightenment thought wasn’t part of the knowledge possessed by most colonists and was a belief held only by the most educated in society. Consequently, there had to be something else that unified them, inspiring them to be willing to lay down their lives. I say that the “something else” was the way of grace and love—the Narrow Way.

If the Founders’ political philosophies were different from the beliefs of the colonists, there could have never been the passion that most Americans feel for their history and founding documents, but the American vision has always caused the hearts of her people to burst with enthusiasm. This wasn’t because a vanguard of philosophers carefully and meticulously developed a slew of political documents, but because the highest and most rational thought that these learned, scientific men could produce merely aligned with the Biblical concepts of those on the Narrow Way.

This may even seem shocking to those who think it’s wise for our nation to abandon “fundamentalist” Christianity and align itself with Enlightenment thought, but I would even argue that the Founders would have failed, as the “philosophes” did in France, if they hadn’t planted their seed in the fertile ground of American evangelicalism.

Authors of books such as The Godless Constitution: The Case Against Religious Correctness and The Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers emphasize the fact that the Founding Fathers weren’t Christians. They detail all of the Founder’s writings and show how “skeptical” they supposedly were. This, they say, should quiet the religious right, who diabolically want to create a state church through reciting the “Pledge of Allegiance” in the classroom, keeping “In God We Trust” on our money, or saying a prayer at a high school graduation.

These authors claim that they’re staying true to the original intentions of the Founding Fathers and since the Founders were skeptics, they wouldn’t want there to be any mention of God by the secular government. They say “the creche or the menorah on public property becomes the nose of the camel sneaking into the tent where Americans have carefully enshrined the constitutional separation of church and state.” [1]

Were the Founders Atheists?

While I would agree that many of the Founders were products of Enlightenment rationalism, I think there needs to be an understanding that the term “skeptic” doesn’t mean atheist. The Founders would not have declared that “God Is Not Great.” They may not have even agreed completely with Hitchens’ proposition that “religion poisons everything.” Even though they were vehemently anti-clerical in most cases, they also recognized the important role that religion played in governing the people. This would become even more important after the failure of the French Revolution. Therefore, Hitchens feels justified in claiming Enlightenment thinkers such as Voltaire, Jefferson, Paine, and Franklin as his own and explains the following:

Arguments for atheism can be divided into two main categories: those that dispute the existence of God and those that demonstrate the ill effects of religion. It might be better if I broadened this somewhat, and said those that dispute the existence of an intervening God. Religion is, after all, more than the belief in a supreme being. It is the cult of that supreme being and the belief that his or her wishes have been made known or can be determined. Defining matters in this way, I can allow myself to mention great critics such as Thomas Jefferson or Thomas Paine, who perhaps paradoxically regarded religion as an insult to God. [2]

 

But he also implies that the reason the Founders were deists rather than atheists was because Darwin hadn’t come on the scene yet, giving them an alternative explanation of origins.

While Hitchens does acknowledge that he has “no right to claim past philosophers as purtative ancestors of atheism,”[3] he goes on to say that he may still be justified in making the claim that they were atheists:

Because of religious intolerance we cannot know what they really thought privately, and were very nearly prevented from learning what they wrote publicly… in view of the terror imposed by religion on science and scholarship throughout the early Christian centuries… and the fact that most intelligent people found it prudent to make an outward show of conformity, one need not be surprised that the revival of philosophy was often originally expressed in quasi-devout terms. [4]

 

In other words, these anti-religious philosophers were able to express their disdain for the organized Church, which could have really done harm to them, but not express their disdain for God, who if he wasn’t real, could do nothing to them.

This attempt by the atheist Hitchens to claim those who clearly have accomplished great things as his own, even though they believed in a Supreme Being, could be seen to be an illegal seizure, a confiscation of something that isn’t truly his. The word atheist is defined as “a person who believes there is no God.”[5] So either Hitchens, who authors the book The Portable Atheist, is not an atheist, or he is trying to redefine the term. Anti-religious attitudes do not an atheist make. If that were the case, as I demonstrated earlier in this book, God would be an atheist!

Anti-Religion, Not Anti-God

Instead, I believe what all of these men had in common was a search for a religionless God. They saw all the abuses of religion, just as Hitchens does, but in spite of what Hitchens thinks they would have done, they didn’t go as far as Hitchens. They didn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Their contempt for religion didn’t lead to contempt for God. Instead, I would argue that Franklin, Jefferson, Voltaire, and Paine, all men who earned Hitchens’ respect, were searching for the non-religious Narrow Way.

Some of them rejected parts of the scripture. There were two reasons for this. As deists, they believed that the world was governed by natural law. They admired the work of the scientists, especially Isaac Newton, who revealed the laws of physics. To them, God was Newton’s “first cause.” He designed and set the universe in motion like a grand watchmaker and then stood back. So then, God revealed himself in nature, hence the term “Nature’s God” referred to in the Declaration of Independence.

But they were also children of the age of exploration and realized that a multiplicity of religions existed in the world. The Judeo-Christian faiths weren’t universal, the explorers had discovered, so to reconcile themselves to the idea of a just God, they held that there must be a Supreme Being—pure, simple, and rational—that in light of new discoveries, men would be able to embrace. They were also educated men who knew history and were familiar with the corruption of the church. From these perspectives: advances in science, advances in exploration, and knowledge of history, deism was birthed.

Because God was revealed in the laws of nature and had merely set the universe in motion and stood back without intervening, miracles, prophecies, and other mysteries were cast off. God, they believed, wouldn’t have interjected himself in history; he would have only let it progress naturally. This is why Jefferson’s Bible had the verses about miracles removed. The deists also rejected parts of the Bible, because they believed much of the justification for the persecutions, witch hunts, and inquisitions had their source in verses such as “Do not allow a sorceress to live” (Exod. 22:18).

They also knew that after the Thirty Years War that devastated so much of Europe (it’s reported that the fields were so ravaged by war they couldn’t even produce crops), the Treaty of Westphalia, guaranteeing a measure of religious tolerance, was the culmination of the wisdom gleaned as a result of the carnage. The devastation caused by the war would pressure Catholics and Protestants to reconsider the use of force in resolving religious differences. With these religious ordeals still in their minds, deists all advocated the tolerance of different religions. John Locke’s “Essay on Toleration” would succinctly express their viewpoint. But they would go even further than Locke. They didn’t want just toleration. They wanted freedom.

Their faith was one of reason based on the highest that human knowledge had attained. History, science, exploration, philosophy, and a general increase in knowledge culminated into what was to become Enlightenment thought. They were truth seekers. But beyond this they were truth speakers. And they paid a price. Heroes to some, and heretics to others, neither atheists nor practitioners of religion can claim them as their own.

Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine

Instead these men tried to plow out a different path, one in which Thomas Paine would join with the prophet Micah and declare, “I believe in the equality of man, and that religious duties consist in doing justice, in loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow creatures happy.”[6] He would also look at history and observe that “all national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind and monopolize power and profit.”[7] His pamphlet “Common Sense” inspired Americans to rebel against British tyranny (by use of the Old Testament story of Samuel and Saul—whereby Israel wanted a king in spite of God’s warning against it). But he also wrote “The Age of Reason” and supported the French Revolution, which ultimately led to him being despised by the same country that was once so inspired by his writings.

And yet… Paine believed. In spite of the ugliness produced by religion, he saw beauty in the creation of God and hoped for immortality. But he refused to submit to religious leaders or be involved in their sins. I believe Paine was searching for a non-religious way to God. And while he may have abandoned some of the Word, therefore fashioning a god out of his own wisdom, he didn’t abandon humanity or the principles of Christianity. Paine wasn’t an unbeliever, and it’s wrong for modern day atheists to parade him around as one of their trophies.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson

The same goes for Thomas Jefferson. He was also a believer. He may have rejected the miraculous portions of the Bible because of his commitment to natural law and knowledge of Church corruption in history, but he didn’t reject Jesus. In a letter to Benjamin Rush, he explains: “To the corruptions of Christianity, I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence, and believing he never claimed any other.”[8]

While Jefferson may not have embraced the divinity of Jesus, he could still see his beauty. The fact that Jefferson refused to be a part of the religious system doesn’t make him an atheist, and therefore I don’t believe it’s right for Hitchens and others to try to claim him as their own.

Voltaire

Voltaire

Voltaire

Voltaire is another deist that atheists try to hitch unto their wagon, but he believed in God. When atheists attempted to make claims on him, he revolted. He said that religion was the problem, not God, and that those who try to come against the corrupt Church must be careful not to harm God in the process:

Religion, you say, has produced countless misfortunes; say rather the superstition which reigns on our unhappy globe. This is the cruelest enemy of the pure worship due to the Supreme Being. Let us detest this monster which has always torn the bosom of its mother; those who combat it are the benefactors of the human race, it is a serpent which chokes religion in its embrace. We must crush its head without wounding the mother whom it devours. [9]

 

Voltaire realized that the enemy of God was religion (he called it “superstition”). He distinguishes between the true and the false just as Jefferson and Paine do. He wasn’t an atheist, but an anti-religionist. This is how he describes his faith:

[The theist] believes that religion consists neither in the opinions of an unintelligible metaphysic, nor in vain shows, but in worship and justice. To do good is his worship, to submit to God is his creed. The Mohammedan cries out to him, “Beware if you fail to make the pilgrimage to Mecca!”—the priest says to him, “Curses on you if you do not make the trip to Notre Dame de Lorette!” He laughs at Lorette and at Mecca: but he succors the indigent and defends the oppressed. [10]

 

Voltaire would definitely not want to be held up as an atheist as though he was one of their own. He wasn’t. He embraced another way between atheism and religion.

Benjamin Franklin

Ben Franklin

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin is also portrayed as an atheist in much of atheist writing, which uses the deceptive term of “skeptic” to lump together atheists, deists, and agnostics, all as unbelievers. Franklin would insist on differentiating them from one another: “I oppose my theist to atheist, because I think they are diametrically opposite; and not near of kin, as Mr. Whitefield seems to suppose, where, (in his Journal) he tells us ‘Mr. B was a deist, I had almost said an atheist;’ that is, chalk, I had almost said charcoal.” [11]

Franklin resented the fact that Whitefield, the evangelist, was lumping him together with atheists. Instead, he would agree with Voltaire that religion was the problem and not God. I think it may be helpful to read a letter that Franklin wrote to Joseph Huey on the matter of his faith. It’s rather long, but I think Franklin expresses the heart of God in a beautiful way.

The Faith you mention has doubtless its use in the World. I do not desire to see it diminished, nor would I endeavor to lessen it in any Man. But I wish it were more productive of Good Works than I have generally seen it: I mean real good Works, Works of Kindness, Charity, Mercy, and Publick Spirit; not Holiday-keeping, Sermon-Reading or Hearing, performing Church Ceremonies, or making long Prayers, fill’d with Flatteries and Compliments, despis’d even by wise Men, and much less capable of pleasing the Deity. The Worship of God is a Duty, the hearing and reading of Sermons may be useful; but if Men rest in Hearing and Praying, as many do, it is as if a Tree should value itself on being water’d and putting forth Leaves, tho it never produced any Fruit.

Your great Master tho’t much less of these outward Appearances and Professions than many of his modern Disciples. He prefer’d the Doers of the Word to meer Hearers; the Son that seemingly refus’d to obey his Father and yet performed his Commands, to him that profess’d his Readiness but neglected the Works; the heretical but charitable Samaritan, to the uncharitable tho’ orthodox Priest and sanctified Levite: and those who gave Food to the Hungry, Drink to the Thirsty, Raiment to the Naked, Entertainment to the Stranger, and Relief to the Sick, & co. tho’ they never heard of his Name, he declares shall in the last Day be accepted, when those who cry Lord, Lord; who value themselves on their Faith tho’ great enough to perform Miracles but have neglected good Works shall be rejected. He profess’d that he came not to call the Righteous but Sinners to Repentance, which imply’d his modest Opinion that there were some in his Time so good that they need not hear even him for improvement; but now a days we have scarce a little Parson, that does not think it the Duty of every Man within his Reach to sit under his petty Ministration, and that whoever omits them offends God, I wish to such more Humility, and to you Health and Happiness, being Your Friend and Servant. [12]

 

Franklin wanted Christians to do good works of charity and kindness, rather than religious rituals, and he says this was the way of Huey’s “great Master,” yet Hitchens dismisses Franklin’s obvious admiration for the teachings of Jesus by saying that we cannot “know how many ostensibly devout people were secretly unbelievers.”[13] He says that even “as late as the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in relatively free societies such as Britain and the United States, unbelievers as secure and prosperous as James Mill and Benjamin Franklin felt it advisable to keep their opinions private.”[14] He doesn’t offer any evidence of this persecution, but the implication is that “Ben Franklin is secretly one of ours.”

Franklin, Voltaire, Jefferson, and Paine were not atheists. They were anti-religionists. In this they were closer to the Narrow Way than to the atheist way. Although they shunned “revelation” and the idea of a personal God, they didn’t necessarily shun the Bible. Most of them quoted it at length in their writings. They knew its content. But they were products of their age, not perfect. Hitchens says they were the children of his “species.” I would respectfully disagree and say that they were children of my “species”—those on the Narrow Way. While Hitchens claims that Darwinism would have lured them to the atheistic perspective, we must remember that they were also historians, and with the benefit of hindsight they may have seen the wreckage caused by Darwinian nihlism and perhaps accepted a way that embraces Biblical faith yet rejects arrogant and useless religion. Indeed, many of their words reflect this desire.

Why Was America Successful?

Along with this attempt to wrap the Founders in the robes of atheism, there’s a parallel effort to claim that the Revolution was successful, not because of the faithful, but because of the wisdom of the “skeptics.” There’s been a tit for tat conflict playing out in the public arena over whether America was founded as a Christian nation or as a skeptical nation based merely on empiricism and reason.

This is where the crux of my argument lies. To whom do we owe America’s great success? Is it, as the skeptics would insist, due only to the Founders’ (implied) atheistic insights, or is it because of the Christian faith? I would argue that credit can be given to both deists and Christians, and I reject the prospect of giving any credit to atheists in this case. America is, at the least, a nation founded upon godly principles. To this the Founders, who used the name of God unashamedly (as in Jefferson’s “Declaration of Independence,” Franklin’s request for prayer during the Constitutional Convention, and Washington’s designation of Thanksgiving as a national holiday), would willingly submit.

Although the Constitution was “Godless” as authors Isaac Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore claim, this was obviously not in antagonism to faith, but an attempt to protect the Roger Williams of the world. Rhode Island and Pennsylvania were both founded upon the principle of religious freedom and toleration. One of these founders was a Quaker, and one was a Baptist. They weren’t accepted in the church-state “city on a hill” Puritan communities, so they began their own places of refuge, tolerating all faiths.

America: The Religious Refuge

It’s important to understand the mindset of the colonists regarding religion in the time period leading up to the Revolution in order to understand why people were so committed to the cause that they were willing to give up “their life, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.” While there were some economic motivations for the Revolution, as the Boston Tea Party would reveal, the main motive for the Revolution was the desire to be involved in a grand experiment in freedom. Thomas Paine would put this motivation into eloquent words when he declared:

O ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose, not only the tyranny, but the tyrant, stand forth! Every spot of the old world is over-run with oppression. Freedom hath been hunted round the globe. Asia, and Africa, have long expelled her. Europe regards her like a stranger, and England hath given her warning to depart. O! receive the fugitive, and prepare in time an asylum for mankind. [15]

 

The main part of this great experiment, according to Paine, was for America to become a place of religious tolerance. This is an important part of his vision for America in “Common Sense”:

For myself I fully and conscientiously believe, that it is the will of the Almighty, that there should be diversity of religious opinions among us: It affords a larger field for our Christian kindness. Were we all of one way of thinking, our religious dispositions would want matter for probation; and on this liberal principle, I look on the various denominations among us, to be like children of the same family, differing only, in what is called their Christian names. [16]

This vision was in direct contrast with those New England societies founded as denominational strongholds.

The Great Awakening

So how was it that Paine’s dream was embraced by so many colonists? I would argue that one of the main reasons America would accept the Founding Father’s revolutionary proposition was because of The Great Awakening. As many historians have recognized, this spiritual revival would “challenge old sources of authority and produce patterns of thought and behavior that helped fuel a revolutionary movement in the next generation.” [17] This spiritual movement would lead to the disintegration of the established religious order of Puritanical New England and would help make the colonies more receptive to the American Revolution. It led to the colonists’ reception of the concept of individual rights, religious freedom, democratization, and nationalism.

The Great Awakening was characterized by an emphasis on inner experience rather than outward duties. Because Puritan religious leaders were being influence by “dry” European rationalism and deism, the common man became very receptive to the emotional, heartfelt message of the revivalist preacher.

Theodore Frelinghuysen

The Awakening Revival can be traced back to German pietism, a Lutheran movement of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that “emphasized heartfelt religious devotion, ethical purity, charitable activity, and pastoral theology rather than sacramental or dogmatic precision.”[18] (They were on the Narrow Way!) According to William Warren Sweet, author of Religion in Colonial America,[19] Theodore Frelinghuysen, a German who was educated under pietistic influences, was called to America by three Dutch congregations in New Jersey in 1720. Sweet describes these Dutch communities as “rough and boorish”[20] saying they had “little desire beyond the outward conformity to accepted religious rites.”[21] They merely wanted “to preserve the Dutch church as a symbol of their Dutch nationality.”[22] Sweet says “the last thing they wanted was to have a religion that would stir the emotions and set up high standards of personal conduct. This was just the kind of religion, however, that Domine Frelinghuysen now began to preach.”[23] He had an “impassioned manner of preaching”[24] and advocated inner religion and conversion rather than the performance of outward religious duties.

This caused a split in the Dutch congregations. Those who were well off (and usually held leadership positions in the church) were upset, while the poor and the young supported Frelinghuysen’s enthusiasm. This was to be a common theme of revivalism and one of the traits that caused it to be a catalyst for democratic principles. By emphasizing a religion that appealed to the common man, revivalism would lay the foundation for the belief that government could be “of the people.” It shattered the viewpoint that the educated clerical class and aristocracy needed to serve as a type of vanguard for the uneducated.

The Frelinghuysen revival prepared the way for the next stage of the revival, which occurred among the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians in the Middle Colonies. William Tennent, a powerful preacher who was very evangelical for his day, felt called to educate young men for the ministry. He began the Log College at Neshaminy in Pennsylvania and in the course of twenty years educated sixteen to eighteen men for ministry, many of them his own sons. These young men were to achieve distinction for their scholarly achievements, but according to Sweet, “their principal distinction, however, was due to their flaming evangelical zeal.” [25]

Most of these young men settled into churches in the New Jersey area and because Frelinghuysen had already paved the way for their message, Sweet says that “a militant revivalism swept the whole region.”[26] Frelinghuysen himself recognized that one of Tennent’s sons, Gilbert, had a “kindred spirit” and warmly welcomed him to the work in New Jersey.

Although there was great success, there was also opposition to the revival by many, especially older ministers. In an attempt to keep the revival from spreading, they tried to control the ordination of ministers by requiring candidates to present diplomas from New England or European colleges, a tactic obviously targeted toward shutting down Log College graduates.

Jonathan Edwards

Eight years after the Frelinghuysen revivals, in the fall of 1734, the Great New England Awakening began. Jonathan Edwards began to work with young people in his community, encouraging them to “assemble in several parts of the town and spend the evening in prayer and other duties of social religion. Their example was soon followed by their elders.”[27]

Jonathan Edwards, taking advantage of this rising religiosity, began to preach on “Awakening” themes. He stopped reading his sermon notes from the pulpit and began to preach in an extemporaneous style more common to the Log College preachers. One of his most famous sermons, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” led to outbursts of emotion in the usually stoic congregations of Puritanical New England. Sweet describes the reaction of the people to Edward’s preaching:

It seemed as though he were walking up and down the village street, pointing his accusing finger at “one house after another, unearthing secret sins and holding them up for all to see.” Thus the revival of 1734 and 1735 began, and for three months excitement gripped the town. The number of converts grew to more than three hundred and the meetinghouse could not contain the throngs who came to witness the receiving of a hundred new members on a certain Sunday morning. Night and day the parsonage was thronged with agonized sinners seeking the pastor’s help so that they too might join the company of the saved and rejoicing. [28]

 

This was the situation in the colonies when the most famous of all revival preachers came onto the scene. The Frelinghuysen/Tennent/New England revivals merely laid a foundation for the work of the itinerant preacher, George Whitefield, whose message and style would lead to the crystallization of the revivals occurring in isolation into a great revival that would cross the continent.

George Whitefield

George Whitefield preaching

George Whitefield preaching outside of the churches on a box in a field.

Whitefield was an Anglican from England. He had been influenced by the Wesley brothers (founders of Methodism) and came to America, where he began preaching in 1739. He landed in Lewes, Delaware, and began preaching in “the very region where Domine Frelinghuysen and the Log College evangelists had been preparing the soil for his seed.” [29]

Whitefield was supported wholeheartedly by the Log College preachers and Presbyterians (more than his own Anglicans) and also gained support from “many educated and sober-minded men in the Middle Colonies such as Benjamin Franklin.” [30] Writing about Whitefield, Franklin said: “In 1739 arriv’d among us from England the Rev. Mr. Whitefield, who had made himself remarkable there as an itinerant Preacher. He was at first permitted to preach in some of our Churches; but the Clergy taking a Dislike to him, soon refus’d him their Pulpits and he was obliged to preach in the Fields.”[31]

Franklin would print Whitefield’s sermons and pamphlets. He had a working relationship with Whitefield, but he also respected him and enjoyed his company as a friend. He says that even though Whitefield would “pray for [his] conversion,”[32] theirs was “a mere civil Friendship, sincere on both Sides, and lasted to his Death.”[33]

Franklin described Whitefield as having “a loud and clear Voice, and articulated his Words and Sentences so perfectly that he might be heard and understood at a great distance.”[34] He even tried to figure out the strength of Whitefield’s voice: “I computed that he might well be heard by more than Thirty-Thousand. This reconcil’d me to the Newspaper Accounts of his having preach’d to 25000 People in the Fields, and to the ancient Histories of Generals haranguing whole armies, of which sometimes I doubted.”[35]

Whitefield had visited Georgia in 1738 and saw the plight of the children of settlers who had gone there to find refuge from debtor prison. Franklin said that they didn’t have the skills or industry necessary to endure the hardships of a new settlement. Because of this many died, “leaving behind many helpless Children unprovided for. The Sight of their miserable Situation inspired the benevolent Heart of Mr. Whitefield with the Idea of building an Orphan House there.”[36]

According to Franklin, even he couldn’t resist the charms of George Whitefield. Franklin thought that Whitefield’s orphanage should be built in the north and the children should be brought to it, but Whitefield remained resolute in his position that the house be built in Georgia, so Franklin decided not to give money to the cause. He says that he was attending one of Whitefield’s sermons and mention was made of the collection for the orphanage and he “silently resolved he should get nothing from me.” [37] Franklin admits he had in his pocket “a handful of Copper Money, three or four silver Dollars, and five Pistoles in Gold.” [38] But as Whitefield spoke, he “began to soften, and concluded to give the Coppers. Another stroke of his oratory made me asham’d of that, and determin’d me to give the Silver; and he finished so admirably, that I empty’d my Pocket wholly into the Collector’s Dish, Gold and all.”[39]

Nathan Cole, a farmer and carpenter of Connecticut, describes the excitement he and his wife felt when they found out that Whitefield was going to be in town. They dropped everything, got on a horse—they both shared one horse—and drove as fast as they could for twenty miles just to catch a glimpse of Whitefield. They weren’t disappointed. According to Cole:

 When I see Mr. Whitfeld come upon the Scaffold, he looked almost angellical—a young, slim, slender youth before some thousands of people, and with a bold, undaunted countenance. And my hearing how God was with him everywhere as he came along, it solomnized my mind, and put me in trembling fear before he began to preach, for he looked as if he was Cloathed with authority from the great God. And a sweet, solomn Solemnity sat upon his brow, and my hearing him preach gave me a heart wound, by God’s blessing. My old foundation was broken up and I saw that my righteousness would not save me. [40]

 

Whitefield traveled up and down the eastern seaboard preaching the Reformation principle of “justification by grace through faith.” His message was simple: you must be born again. He believed in instant conversion. Nathan Cole, the farmer who was mentioned previously, experienced the “new birth” preached by Whitefield:

Now I had for some years a bitter prejudice against three scornful men that had wronged me, but now all that was gone away Clear, and my Soul longed for them and loved them; there was nothing that was sinful that could any wise abide in the presence of God; And all the air was love, now I saw that every thing that was sin fled from the presence of God. As far as darkness is gone from light or beams of the Sun for where ever the Sun can be seen clear there is no Darkness . . . Now I see with new eyes, all things became new, A new God; new thoughts and new heart.[41]

 

It was this simple, heartfelt message of good news that spread like wildfire throughout the colonies and gave hope to common men like Nathan. But in the same way that the common man rejoiced, many of the clergy rejected Whitefield. He was invited, for example, to the Bishop of London’s Commissary in South Carolina to answer questions, and while there he was immediately accused of “Enthusiasm and Pride, for speaking against the Generality of the Clergy.”[42] Whitefield had charged them with preaching something other than justification by faith alone. The Commissary was so offended by his encounter with Whitefield that he kicked him out of his house. Whitefield went to the Commissary’s church a couple of days later because it was arranged beforehand that he should speak, and his popularity would have made it difficult for the Commisary to uninvite him. The Commissary, still angry, introduced him “under the character of the Pharisee, who came to the temple saying, ‘God, I thank thee that I am not as other Men are.’”[43]

Far and away the biggest controversy caused by the Great Awakening was the emotional response of the people to the message. Sweet says that “too much of their preaching was of a character to terrify the people, resulting in faintings, cries, and bodily agitations.”[44] He says that Whitefield was “much less given to this kind of preaching than were the Scottish-Irish revivalists”[45] of the Log College and that Whitefield opposed these kinds of manifestations and didn’t “consider them to have any relationship to true conversion.”[46]

Old Lights vs. New Lights

The immediate impact of the revival was a division in the Presbyterian church. The “Old Lights” who rejected the work of The Great Awakening expelled the “New Lights.” So the New Lights formed the New York Synod, which was composed of “twenty-two ministers, with the leadership shared between the Log College men and the Yale graduates… members were generally young men, enthusiastically devoted to the revival, which they regarded as a blessed work of God.”[47] The Philadelphia Synod, on the other hand, was “composed of ministers trained in the European universities, who had entered the ministry without experiencing any spiritual crisis in their own lives, and were not concerned in furthering revivalistic religion.”[48] These clergy of the Philadelphia Synod were to become the “Old Lights” who became more and more immersed in European rationalism and would later become known as the ‘latitudinarians.’”[49]

Laying the Groundwork for Freedom

Harvard professor Alan Heimert writes in his essay “Toward a Republic”[50] that the Great Awakening was in some ways an early “Declaration of Independence” from Europe. It had produced a uniquely American religious experience, which had broken away from the influence of European rationalism and philosophies. Instead of being dry and lifeless, as many thought the churches of New England had become, the Awakening emphasized the potency of the spoken word. Sweet describes this contrast:

 The novelty of Whitefield’s extemporaneous preaching; his impassioned utterances; his marvelous voice and vivid dramatic power must have been a welcome relief to people accustomed to sermons read from closely written manuscripts held in the hand of the preacher, and upon themes as dreary as the droning voice in which they were uttered. It is easily understood why the crowds paid him such extravagant honor, for he “substituted human interest stories for logic and gave churchgoing America its first taste of the theatre under the flag of salvation.[50]

 

Although most “tended to agree with Ben Franklin that ‘Modern Political Oratory’ was chiefly, and most properly, ‘performed by the Pen and Press,’”[51] evangelicalism “can be said to have inaugurated a new era in the history of American public address.”[52] According to J.M. Bumsted, this new experience with gathering to hear a speaker was a natural aspect of colonialism brought about by revivalism. He says when “Bostonians gathered on the Boston Common in 1773 to listen to an oration ‘on the Beauties of Liberty,’ the mass meeting they attended was a form that was made respectable by George Whitefield in 1740.”[53]

Even the complex arguments over the Great Awakening that were printed in newspapers and pamphlets laid the groundwork for the complex arguments over revolution. J. M. Bumstead says that “it was the revival which had first involved colonial Americans on a grand scale in confrontational politics, sloganeering, and ideological name-calling and labelling. The Great Awakening produced a general political polarization in matters of intellectual principle. Its great debates prefigured the great debates over the meaning of Empire.”[54]

Unifying the People

Another impact of the Great Awakening on American life was its impact on national unity. Dr. Edwin Gaustad, a leading authority on the history of American religion, describes the lack of unity in America:

Communication among the colonies was infrequent if not totally absent, transportation on north-south roads was agonizingly slow, so much so that journeys down river were infinitely to be preferred to any other mode of travel…. No coastal canals, few port roads, no common newspaper, no common assembly, no free trade, no common faith, no common loyalty, and for a significant minority not even a common heritage or a common language. What could bind this scattered, fractured, two million souls into a national community, into a social whole. [55]

 

Gaustad says that “economic grievances, political deprivations, and ideological assertions” played a part, but he believes that the revival played a great part in developing the sense of community needed to wage a war and win. He says that “the wave of religious enthusiasm known as The Great Awakening transcended denominational barriers, ignored colonial boundaries, melted divisions between rich and poor, male and female, black and white.”[56] It brought people out of their homes, businesses, farms, and studies “to hear and rejoice in a gospel open to all.” [57]

Gaustad says that in the 1740’s and 1750’s nearly everyone came, thus finding themselves “part of a larger community, larger, closer than any they’d previously known in America.”[58] Thus the Great Awakening with her itinerant circuit preachers was one of the nation’s first unifying forces, causing an organic unity that heretofore was nonexistent.

Christianity or Enlightened Rationalism?

Although many modern day conservatives say that America is a “Christian nation,” pointing to quotes from the Founding Fathers to prove their point, and liberals point to skepticism as being truer to the Founders’ ideology, the truth is that both viewpoints existed during the formative years of pre-colonial America. What may not be understood is that the beliefs of revivalist evangelical Christianity produced some of the same political principles as those of Enlightenment rationalism.

This alignment of ideals (a type of “alignment of the planets” if you will) helped to produce a revolution whose political leaders could write eloquently from a somewhat secular perspective and yet align perfectly with the newly formed religious ideals formed by the Great Awakening. It took both perspectives to produce the fervor that would be needed for the American Revolution to occur. The Founders provided the intellectual wisdom that was needed to form a government, borrowing ideas from Montesquieu and Locke, while evangelicals got their wisdom from the scriptural imperatives, which were more accessible to the common man and produced a passion and commitment that was needed by the masses to do the sacrificial work of fighting a war.

For example, two key Enlightenment principles were the dignity of the individual and the right to individual liberty or freedom. To promote these principles to evangelicals was in a sense “preaching to the choir.” They could easily find a home in the churches of the Great Awakening. Because revival preachers emphasized the Reformation principle of “the priesthood of the believer,” that is, the ability of the individual to gain access to God without the clergy, evangelicals had already begun to believe in the dignity and worth of the individual. So when the Founders spoke of “natural rights” being given to the individual, the evangelical could wholeheartedly concur. When Thomas Jefferson, a deist, wrote of men being equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) the evangelical could easily receive this language. They believed in a Creator and were grateful for the protection of life (in contrast to being burnt at the stake for holding alternative religious viewpoints) and liberty, which to them implied religious freedom in particular.

Religious freedom and toleration were important principles to Enlightenment thinkers such as John Locke and Thomas Paine who wrote that it is the “indispensable duty of all government, to protect all conscientious professors thereof” and that he “fully and conscientiously believe[s], that it is the will of the Almighty, that there should be diversity of religious opinions among us.”[59] For evangelicals, many who had “converted” and come out of Puritanism, this wouldn’t have been an alien concept. In fact, since most colonies, other than Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, had some form of church establishment, numerous battles were fought over religious control.

One of the greatest battles occurred when Massachusetts attempted to collect taxes (tithes) for its Congregational churches from Baptist and Separatist churches. The movement for tax (or tithe) exemption was led by Isaac Backus, a Middleborough Baptist pastor. He wrote two works on religious tolerance: “Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty Against the Oppressions of the Present Day” (1775) and “History of New England with Particular Reference to the Denomination Called Baptists.” According to Bumstead:

 The “History” was a careful indictment of the religious persecutions of the Puritans and made a hero out of Roger Williams. The writings of Backus were a constant source of dismay to New England’s revolutionary leaders [those “Old Light” Christians who were promoting the revolution based on their rationalistic beliefs], for the Baptist leader insisted on gaining the same rights and liberties for his denomination others were demanding from England. In 1744 Backus went to the Continental Congress to plead for religious liberty in New England—to the delight of the opponents of the rebellion and the embarrassment of Puritan revolutionaries like Sam and John Adams. [59]

 

In Virginia a similar campaign for religious toleration was led by Sam Davies, making religious toleration not only an Enlightenment principle, but a rallying cry for evangelicals, too.

The beliefs of evangelicals and Enlightenment thinkers aligned again when it came to Montesquieu’s concept of “checks and balances.” Because evangelicals believed in the theological principle of “original sin” or the corrupt condition of human nature, they could easily embrace the thought that it was necessary for government to have a system of accountability that would hold corrupt human authority in check.

Also, when Thomas Paine wrote in “Common Sense” about his opposition to monarchies and the necessity of separating from England, he quoted 1 Samuel where God was upset with Israel for wanting a king. This was the language of the evangelical. The Enlightenment belief that “natural” freedom was more orderly for society than hierarchical structure would have been agreeable to the evangelical simply because of this principle found in 2 Samuel, that God would rather have his people trust in and be led by him than by an earthly king. Even though Paine says his ideas were based on common sense and reason, the revivalist evangelical could embrace them based on scriptural truth and personal experience.

Another place where the Enlightenment thinkers and the evangelical aligned in their thought was in their anticlerical attitude. Voltaire and Locke, who railed against the established Catholic church of Europe because of the corruption and hypocrisy of its clergy and promoted religious toleration in their writings, were easily understood by the rebels of the Great Awakening. They believed that the established churches of America had lost their life and were leading people astray. They didn’t trust the clergy and believed they were more interested in maintaining power and control than in caring for the people. The evangelical understood that anticlericalism didn’t mean anti-God; it just meant that they didn’t want to subject themselves to what they believed were hypocritical religious leaders—and they didn’t have to anymore because they could get to God individually, without clergy.

This anticlerical attitude also led to a democratization in religion. Because of The Great Awakening, people could believe individually before God, which put all humans on level ground. Hierarchy in religion was no longer necessary. All were created equal! This belief naturally led to a democratization in politics. If all were equal before God, aristocratic systems of government were no longer legitimate. So when Locke said that there shouldn’t be “government without the consent of the governed,” the evangelical who was now equal in his eyes with both the clergy and the aristocracy could wholeheartedly agree.

As said before, the other belief that was promoted by Thomas Paine in “Common Sense” was that of a special mission for America. According to Kramnick, Paine emphasized that “like the Hebrews, the Americans are invested with a messianic mission. ‘The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind.’” This special mission was sensed from the earliest days of the colonies. For example, John Winthrop, leader of the Massachusetts Bay Colony said in 1630: “Wee must Consider that wee shall be as s Citty upon a Hill, the eies of all people are uppon us; soe that if wee shall deale falsely with our god in this worke wee have undertaken and soe cause him to withdraw his present help from us, wee shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.”[60]

Jonathan Edwards agreed with this idea of a special mission, also. He wrote that “this new world… was probably discovered that God might in it begin a new world in a spiritual respect, when he creates the new heavens and the new earth.”[61]

All of our religious and philosophical traditions aligned in the belief that America had a special mission from God. It’s difficult to understand American politics without understanding this long held religious tradition. America was to be a “light to the nations.” Deist or evangelical, all Americans “came to believe that the new nation came into being for ‘the illumination of the ignorant and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind over the earth.’ America would be the new chosen people, the promised land.” [62]

As a result, almost all American wars had a missionary aspect, not as crusades to conquer, but as battles over vital, fundamental concepts—to take on the role of guardian of the free world. From the wars fought against slavery, fascism, communism, and now terrorism, American commitment to this belief is so strong that we’ve repeatedly offered to die for it.

Populism

Although Great Awakening evangelicals were committed to certain causes in the political arena, they were mostly concerned with religion. The only time they would become active in the political world was when they saw humanitarian abuses or oppression. The great social reforms of the nineteenth century, such as concern for the poor, abolishing slavery, women’s suffrage, and child labor laws would be directly connected to evangelicals such as Charles Finney and William Booth of the Salvation Army. The result of this was a type of “populism” (the rejection of hard politics), a desire to be active only on certain issues of moral concern. According to Heimert, populism was assumed to be a child of the Age of Reason, but it was really a child of the “New Light” Awakenings.

Liberal clergy “Old Lights” like Jonathan Mayhew used “pulpit politics” to promote the Revolution while the itinerant revivalist preacher only preached religion from the pulpit, but the attitudes planted in the hearts of people by the “Awakening” doctrines contributed to and advanced revolutionary principles in the common man, making him prepared to be the foot soldier needed to fight for freedom.

Calvinist “Election” Cast Aside

The equivocation of revival with rebellion (against the corrupt established Church) and the consequential blessings that many experienced led to an attitude that rebellion was acceptable. Unlike Calvinistic “election,” men were no longer “pre-determined” in their lot in life. They could choose their destiny. If this was true for individuals, then why not for nations? The Great Awakening’s emphasis on “choosing” to receive Christ had an impact on attitudes toward national destiny. If a man could choose to be free from the tyrannical power of Satan, couldn’t nations choose to be free from the tyrannical power of a corrupt king? Samuel Rutherford would make this argument against the divine right of kings in his Lex Rex.

The Great Awakening and its leaders may not have been a political movement, but its political implications were undeniable. Its emphasis on individualism and anti-authoritarianism shook the established religious communities of New England, crushing their power and leading to religious freedom. The moral fervor produced by the Great Awakening would impact many humanitarian causes in the future and would inspire many to give their lives for what they considered to be the cause of freedom. This fervor has continued for many generations and is felt even today as the “battle for the hearts and minds” of the Iraqi people is fought—that America has a special mission in the world for the cause of freedom.

The French Revolution

Robespierre and the French Revolution

The French Revolution

It needs to be pointed out that another revolution of freedom, inspired by the Enlightenment thinkers, was going on at the same time in France. But this revolution would be characterized by mobs and a guillotine. Why was this? What was the difference? Why did one revolution succeed and one fail when they were both inspired by the same ideas? And why, if Enlightenment deism was so profound, does it no longer exist as a force to be reckoned with?

One way in which those on the Narrow Way differed with those philosophes of the French Revolution was in the Scriptural understanding of the nature of man. Diderot and the Encyclopedists believed in the “alluring doctrine that the primitive state of man was one of virtue and happiness” and this state of happiness could only be corrupted by the presence of “priests, kings, lawyers, and the like,”[63] while the Christian view of human nature is that man is a fallen creature and capable of abject wickedness. Therefore freedom without the cords of faith leads to depravity in one form or another. The Founders decided to align themselves with Montesquieu’s checks rather than with Diderot’s belief in man’s goodness.

This Christian perspective on human nature was to be proven true again during the Reign of Terror. The sweeping away of the ancien regime (the Catholic church and the royal monarchy) in France, as Edmund Burke forewarned, without anything to replace it, could only lead to anarchy. As Jesus said, “When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.” [64] H.G. Wells would sum up the condition of France in similar terms, saying that Locke and Montesquieu deserve “credit for clearing away many of the false ideas that had hitherto prevented deliberate and conscious attempts to reconstruct human society. It was not [their] fault if at first some extremely unsound and impertinent shanties were run up on the vacant site.”[65]

Enlightenment freedom to the French meant freedom from God and his laws. The Jacobins would get rid of the seven-day work week and replace it with a ten-day one. They would throw off the bonds of sexual propriety, making divorce as easy as marriage and not allowing any difference between legitimate and illegitimate children. They would also change the names of the months, turn the Royal Palace into Equality Palace, and set up a holiday for “Lady Reason.”

Because the French population had only been subjected to the “fat shepherds” of monarchy and priesthood, they were unprepared to handle the responsibility of freedom. Therefore they would submit themselves to Robespierre who was “inspired by a new order of human life.” [66] After all, as Hobbes would argue in his Leviathan, order is always preferable to chaos. So, Wells tells us, Robespierre began to “construct.” Part of constructing that “new order” would include chopping off the heads of anyone who disagreed.

Contrast this revolution with the American Revolution. In America, The Great Awakening had “filled their houses with good things” (Job 22:18). The population had a proper view of freedom. They understood the Biblical foundation for democracy and equality. Their anti-clerical attitude wasn’t birthed out of bitterness and rebellion, leading to mob justice against clergy and royalty, but their attitude was birthed out of an understanding that their individual rights were the result of the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer. They would protect and defend these rights, not with animal ferocity, but with reason and calmness, because, as the little farmer Nathan who accepted Whitefield’s gospel message, the grace of God had filled their hearts with love.

The established New England churches would not have been able to create this fervor in the hearts of so many people. While fighting for their own religious freedom against the church in England, they were still unable to see that they didn’t offer the same freedom to others. These were the same Puritanical communities that had produced the witch trials. They were so wrapped up in their own religious importance, believing that they had a special calling in the New World to construct “a city on a hill,” (their Eden) and that that made them a special target for attacks from the devil, that they neglected justice and compassion. They were deluded and became poison. They wouldn’t accept the message of grace brought by the revival preachers. Whitefield was even forced to preach on a box in the city square or in a cornfield in their communities. Religion always hates and persecutes the bearers of Life and grace.

Alexis De Tocqueville

Alexis De Tocqueville

But the message of grace was preached throughout the thirteen colonies. It was received with open arms by the common people, and as a result it produced Life. Alexis De Tocqueville, the political philosopher, wanted to understand why America was succeeding. What made her so great? He traveled from city to city and town to town, talking to people and trying to understand. He went to her schools, to governmental meetings, businesses, and could find nothing unique about them. But then he visited her churches, “aflame with righteousness,” and returned to France with this summary:

There is no country in the whole world in which the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America; and there can be no greater proof of its utility, and of its conformity to human nature, than that its influence is most powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth . . . The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive of one without the other. [67]

Christians would even spread their faith within the United States in order to ensure the continuation of liberty. De Toqueville explains further:

I have known of societies formed by the Americans to send out ministers of the Gospel into the new Western States to found schools and churches there, lest religion should be suffered to die away in those remote settlements, and the rising States be less fitted to enjoy free institutions than the people from which they emanated. [68]

He also noted the difference between the French and American revolutions:

In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and spirit of freedom pursuing courses diametrically opposed to each other; but in America I found that they were intimately united, and that they reigned in common over the same country. [69]

The evangelical message isn’t a danger to a nation, it’s a blessing.

Deism died out because Darwin and Kant made it unnecessary to have a “first cause,” so it was no longer on the cutting edge, scientifically speaking. And because of the failure of the French Revolution, it was also thought to be a political disappointment. It was a religion that was merely formed by certain men who molded it to fit the culture of their time. Since it rejected the Word, it would pass away in time, only to be added to the other failed ideals of history. But (just as in Calvinism) the part of it that lived on is the part that aligned with the Scriptures and is lived out by those on the Narrow Way.

For modern day skeptics to try to pervert and twist this part of America’s heritage is a cheap shot. It’s actually an injustice and a form of revisionist history. As it turns out, those who are the most reasonable, rational, and capable of handling liberty are the same people the skeptics would like to shut out and shut up for the sake of reason, rationality, and liberty.

It could be argued that both France and America were religious attempts to restore paradise. But the difference is that France did it her own way, while America tried to do it God’s way. America followed the Narrow Way—the way of grace and love… and it’s the closest the world has ever come to paradise. Even now millions flock to her shores in search of the freedom and prosperity that she has to offer.

Just as Nero falsely accused Christians of setting Rome on fire, there’s another all-out attack to paint Christians as though they are the enemy of liberty. They are often portrayed as right-wing fascists, but the truth is that those on the Narrow Way, who trusted in the Word, blessed the world and stood on the right side of history  On the other hand, those on the Narrow Way blessed the world and stood on the right side of history again. Just like Jesus said, they are the salt and the light. They preserve society. They light the pathway of goodness. And wherever they are, a little bit of Eden is restored.

 

 

1. Isaac Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore, The Godless Constitution: The Case Against Religious Correctness (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1996), 12.

2. Christopher Hitchens, The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever (Philadelphia: Da Capo Press, 2007)

3. Christopher Hitchens, god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (New York: Twelve, 2007), 263.

4. Ibid, 254.

5. David B. Guralink, ed. Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, 2nd Edition (Simon and Schuster, 1980).

6. A form of Micah 6:8. Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason: Being an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology (New York: The Truth Seeker Co., 1898), 6.

7.   Ibid.

8.  Thomas Jefferson, “Letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush, With a Syllabus, April 4, 1803,” http://www.positiveateism.org/hist/jeff1122.htm (accessed 2/1/2009)

9.  Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the Great Philosophers of the Western World. New York: Simon and Schuster Paperbacks, 2005, p. 185.

10. Ibid, 184.

11. Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Volume VI, ed. Jared Sparks (Boston: Hilliard, Gray, and Co., 1856), 93.

 12. Benjamin Franklin, “Letter to John Huey, June 6, 1753,”  Our Sacred Honor: Words of Advice from the Founders in Stories, Letters, Poems, and Speeches. William Bennet, ed. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997), 404-405.

13. Hitchens, God is not Great, 254.

14. Ibid.

15. Thomas Paine, Common Sense (London: Penguin Books, 1986), 100.

16. Ibid.

17. The American People: Creating a Nation and Society, Volume One: To 1877, 6th ed. Gary B. Nash and Julie Roy Jeffrey, eds. (New York: Pearson Longman, 2004), 149.

18. James D. Nelson “Pietism.” http://www.mb-soft.com/believe/txc/pietism.htm. (accessed 12/05/2004).

19. William Warren Sweet, Religion in Colonial America (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1949).

20.  Ibid, 274.

21. Ibid.

22. Ibid.

23. Ibid.

24. Ibid.

25. Ibid, 276.

26. Ibid.

27. Ibid, 286.

28. Ibid.

29 Ibid, 277.

30. Ibid.

31. Darret Rutman, ed. The Great Awakening: Event and Exegesis, “The Great Itinerant: In Philadelphia,”  by Benjamin Franklin. (New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc. 1970), 36.

32. Ibid, 37.

33. Ibid.

34. Ibid, 38.

35. Ibid.

36. Ibid, 37.

37. Ibid.

38. Ibid.

39. Ibid.

40. Ibid, 45.

41. J.M. Bumstead and John E. Van de Wetering, What Must I Do To Be Saved? The Great Awakening in Colonial America (Hinsdale, IL: The Dryden Press), 80.

42. Darret Rutman, The Great Awakening, 40.

43. Ibid, 41.

43 William Warren Sweet, Religion in Colonial America, 279.

44. Ibid.

45. Ibid.

46. Ibid, 280.

47. Ibid.

48. Darren Rutman, The Great Awakening, 288.

49. Ibid, 136.

50. William Warren Sweet, Religion in Colonial America, 287.

51. Darren Rutman, The Great Awakening, 137.

52. Ibid, 138.

53. J.M. Bumstead, What Must I Do to Be Saved? 160.

54. Ibid, 160-161.

55. Edwin Gaustad, “Sins of the Fathers: Religion and Revolution.” http://www.americanrevolution.org/gaustad.html.

56. Ibid.

57. Ibid.

58. Ibid.

59. Thomas Paine, “Common Sense,” 109.

60. J.M. Bumstead, What Must I Do to Be Saved? 157.

61. Darren Rutman, The Great Awakening, 5.

62. Ibid, 6.

63. Edwin Gaustad, “Religion and Revolution.”

64. H.G. Wells, The Outline of History, Volume II (New York: Garden City Books, 1949) 895.

65. H.G. Wells, The Outline of History, 894.

66. Ibid, 916.

67. Alexis De Toqueville, Democracy in America: Volume I, trans. Henry Reeve (New York: D. Appleton and Country, 1904), 326-331. 

68. Ibid.

69. Ibid.

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About Diana Lesperance

I'm passionate about Jesus and I love to defend the gospel of grace and truth. I have a large and active family that keeps me busy and overwhelmed on a daily basis.

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Books

Why am I WAITING for “Shalom?”

"They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven . . ."
(1 Thessalonians 1:9b-10a)

The word "shalom" in the Hebrew has many meanings which indicate restoration, renewal, friendship, peace, safety and so on. At one time, God placed his creation in a perfect garden--a place of safety, security, provision and peace--and we disobeyed God, losing 1) our relationship with God and 2) paradise.

Since that time, we've attempted to bring back both of these losses in our own way. Religion is our attempt to gain back our relationship with God, and politics is our attempt to gain back paradise.

The solution to both of these losses is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet the world refuses to believe the good news! Instead they try to attain the restoration--the shalom--in their own way through their own effort.

I believe that the kingdom of God is restored in the hearts of men as they receive Christ's finished work, but the kingdom of God doesn't come physically to earth until Christ comes.

Any effort to bring about the promise ahead of time in our own strength is akin to Abraham going to Hagar for fulfillment of the promise instead of waiting with Sarah for the birth of the promised child through whom the nations of the earth would be blessed.

The evangelical church is rushing en masse to bring about shalom through their own effort, power, and influence. Men like Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, Jim Wallis, and Donald Miller are losing their faith in the promise of Christ that he would prepare a place for them and they're attempting to restore paradise now.

I want to let it be known that I'm WAITING for shalom. I won't be a part of their dream. They are moving ahead of God rather than waiting on God and they will create another Ishmael as a result.

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