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Monday, July 5, 2010

On Jesus and Jefferson

A recurring idea that I've had for some time now is writing a blog post about the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. More so than other early American patriots, Jefferson is lionized by atheists and secular humanists to a degree that a complete picture of his thoughts and ideals is often not presented and we are left with an image of him that those on the Left would want us to see while omitting certain inconvenient elements. All of this gives us an incomplete picture of a man who's religious views were a bit complicated and not readily reduced to a cute sound-byte that quickly summerizes his particular and unique points of view.

This blog entry is written in response to Why the Texas Taliban Fears Mr. Jefferson which my friend Larian Lequella (AKA Steve Lundquist-The Happy Atheist) posted on his blog yesterday and was originally credited to a Mr. Dave Miller, writing in a publication known as The Hook. The entire text of Mr Miller's arguments can be read by clicking here. What follows will be my thoughts on the points raised by Mr. Miller, some of which are not catagorically false but are arranged in such a way as to paint a portrait of Jefferson that I find incomplete at best and disingenuous at worst. First in his opening statement, Mr Miller states....

The impending celebration of Independence Day comes about four months after the powerful Texas Board of Education voted to undermine one of our Constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms; namely, that of religion

I must admit I was complete unaware that a group of professionals deciding upon the books to be used in the cirriculum of school students in the state of Texas had voted to "undermine" the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and I will assume that this is hyperbole on Mr Miller's part unless evidence is provided to indicate otherwise. Miller continues on in High Drama Queen style by stating...

The Texas School Board’s recent acts of textbook censorship and revision of American history suggest that a Christian Taliban is on the rise

How truly tolerant of Mr Miller to compare those in Texas who have a worldview that skews Christian, to poorly (if at all) educated 7th Century throwbacks with dirty beards and filthy robes, who are dedicated to imposing Sharia Law through beheadings, I.E.D. attacks and suicide bombings. I see the relevance right off the bat. Kudos to you Mr Miller. I am in awe of your unique analysis. His insight is particularly telling in his next paragraph in which his argument goes completely off-the-rails and smack-bang into outright silliness...

Unfortunately, the extreme religious right is of the belief that our government is based on Christianity and should be recognized as such publicly. Often, the arguments are given that the founders were Christian men and the laws of the land are based upon the Biblical ten commandments

Perhaps I might be tempted to cut Mr Miller a bit of slack here for merely regurgitating Skepticism 101 talking points. There might actually BE Christians out there who would advance such an argument as Mr Miller suggests. What Mr Miller (or anyone else) who would like to advance such an argument would demonstrate by raising as such would be to demonstrate that they cannot tell the difference between a legal code and a form of civil government.
The use of early church covenants in the colonies and how they were used as a basis for the formation of government that we here in the United States enjoy today would be much more accurate in demonstrating the Christian underpinnings of the foundation of this country. Mr Miller (and anyone else) is welcome to state their opinion on this subject matter on this thread.

Our laws and their antecedents basically agree with the ten commandments, but so have the laws of most civilizations throughout history. Non-Christian religions all teach similar rules of morality. They were all drawn from human experience down through the ages

While certain Commandments such as Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, are to be found in other legal codes, the 10 Commandments are unique in that I am unaware of any other religious foundational document which predates the 10 Commandments in which our thoughts and attitudes are regulated and not just transgressions that necessitate a particular action on our behalf. I.E. "covetousness".

The thinkers who formulated the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were deists, not theists, and were inspired by the ideals of the Enlightenment movement in England and Europe

Pure.. Unadulterated.. Poppycock. This flies completely in the face of serious scholarship on the subject by Dr. M. E. Bradford (University of Dallas) in which he careflully examined the religious beliefs of 55 of the framers of the Constitutional Convention and found only 3 whose religious leanings were a bit unclear. A list of the delegates is as follows ...

New Hampshire

John Langdon, CONGREGATIONALIST -- Calvinist
Nicholas Gilman, CONGREGATIONALIST -- Calvinist


Elbridge Gerry, EPISCOPALIAN -- Calvinist
Rufus King, EPISCOPALIAN -- Calvinist
Caleb Strong, CONGREGATIONALIST -- Calvinist
Nathaniel Gorham, CONGREGATIONALIST -- Calvinist


Roger Sherman, CONGREGATIONALIST -- Calvinist
William Johnson, EPISCOPALIAN -- Calvinist
Oliver Ellsworth, CONGREGATIONALIST -- Calvinist

New York

Alexander Hamilton, EPISCOPALIAN -- Calvinist
John Lansing, DUTCH REFORMED -- Calvinist
Robert Yates, DUTCH REFORMED -- Calvinist

New Jersey

William Patterson, PRESBYTERIAN -- Calvinist
William Livingston, PRESBYTERIAN -- Calvinist
Jonathan Dayton, EPISCOPALIAN -- Calvinist
David Brearly, EPISCOPALIAN -- Calvinist
William Churchill Houston, PRESBYTERIAN -- Calvinist


Benjamin Franklin, DEIST
Robert Morris, EPISCOPALIAN -- Calvinist
James Wilson, DEIST
Gouverneur Morris, EPISCOPALIAN -- Calvinist
Thomas Mifflin, QUAKER
George Clymer, QUAKER
Thomas FitzSimmons, ROMAN CATHOLIC
Jared Ingersoll, PRESBYTERIAN -- Calvinist


John Dickinson, QUAKER
George Read, EPISCOPALIAN -- Calvinist
Richard Bassett, METHODIST
Gunning Beford, PRESBYTERIAN -- Calvinist
Jacod Broom, LUTHERAN


Luther Martin, EPISCOPALIAN -- Calvinist
Daniel Carroll, ROMAN CATHOLIC
John Mercer, EPISCOPALIAN -- Calvinist
James McHenry, PRESBYTERIAN -- Calvinist
Daniel Jennifer, EPISCOPALIAN -- Calvinist


George Washington, EPISCOPALIAN (Non-Communicant)
James Madison, EPISCOPALIAN -- Calvinist
George Mason, EPISCOPALIAN -- Calvinist
Edmund Randolph, EPISCOPALIAN -- Calvinist
James Blair, Jr., EPISCOPALIAN -- Calvinist
James McClung, PRESBYTERIAN -- Calvinist
George Wythe, EPISCOPALIAN -- Calvinist

North Carolina

William Davie, PRESBYTERIAN -- Calvinist
Hugh Williamson, DEIST
William Blount, PRESBYTERIAN -- Calvinist
Alexander Martin, PRESBYTERIAN -- Calvinist
Richard Spaight, EPISCOPALIAN -- Calvinist

South Carolina

John Rutledge, EPISCOPALIAN -- Calvinist
Charles Pinckney, EPISCOPALIAN -- Calvinist
Pierce Butler, EPISCOPALIAN -- Calvinist
Charles Pinckney, III, EPISCOPALIAN -- Calvinist

Abraham Baldwin, CONGREGATIONALIST -- Calvinist
William Leigh Pierce, EPISCOPALIAN Calvinist
William Houstoun, EPISCOPALIAN -- Calvinist
William Few, METHODIST

Should there be any questions concerning the classification of Episcopalians as "Calvinist", this was at a time in history when the Episcopal Church had a Calvinistic Confession. Insofar as George Washington's "non-communicant" status, one can read my below entry from last Friday for an explanation about this. As for George Washington being a deist, Mr. Miller is welcome to post the relevant quote from President Washington where he indicated that he was a deist here while citing his source. I will immediately forward said information the the Political Science department of my alma mater for review being that Mr Miller would have provided the first ever quote from Washington that would indicate this.

Among the leaders of that movement were Voltaire (Francois-Marie Arouet), Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Denis Diderot of France, and Francis Bacon, Isaack Newton, and John Locke of England. Americans Thomas Paine, Ethan Allen, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, and Alexander Hamilton accepted the tenets of Enlightenment philosophy

"Over a ten-year period, political science professors at the University of Houston analyzed over 15,000 writings and speeches by the Founding Fathers to determine the primary source of ideas behind the Constitution. The three most quoted sources were the French philosopher Charles Montesquieu, English jurist William Blackstone and English philosopher John Locke. But the Bible was quoted more than any of these: four times more than Montesquieu, six times more than Locke and twelve times more than Blackstone. Ninety-four percent of the Founding Father's quotes were quoted, either directly or indirectly, from the Bible". Source: Lillback, Peter; Wall of Misconception, pgs. 30-31, (2007), Providence Forum Press.

Source cited by Lillback,

Moore, David T. ; Five Lives of the Century, pgs. 9-10, (1995), Tyndale House Publishing

Just what exactly was the source cited by Mr Miller to form his conclusion? He really doesnt say, but he is welcome to cite it here.

I can see this post is running a bit long and we've barely begun to address President Jefferson so I'll get to the other points raised by Mr. Miller in a seperate entry a little later.

Note: I've linked the other two installments of this series on this page.

On Jesus and Jefferson, Part II

And On Jesus and Jefferson, Part III



Rich Hughes said...

7 of the 10 commandments are unconstitutional. So I don't think Christainity is the starting point..


JD Curtis said...

I only named three of them that as it turns out, are actually laws.

I don't know how one would go about prosecuting covetousness. That's best left to God.

Gregg said...

I know this comment isn't related to your post. It was a really involved and long post. I am going to read it again.

To answer your question - first, you can read my post on the ESV in my April 2010 archives, entitled E is for ESV.

However, a short answer is this, after two yers of investigating and using it intermittently has led me to believe it is the best translation on the market. I now use it exlusively for study, reading, preaching, and memorizing. It is in fact the only translation I recommend as a primary bible. I of course read and utilize for study about a dozen or so translation - but the ESV is excellent. It took a hard look at verbs, their voice, tense, and mood - variant readings, and etc. I have five ESV's for various uses from study to preaching, to keeping one in the car.

I hope you pick on up. You will like it. You will even find it superior to your NIV.

JD Curtis said...

I'll do that. The Mrs is looking for a new Bible as well. I know that Tullian Tchividjian can't say enough about it.

JD Curtis said...

I'll do that Gregg. The Mrs is looking for a new Bible as well. It doesnt hurt to have a 2nd translation in which to compare.

I know that Tullian Tchividjian can't say enough about it.

JD Curtis said...

It was a really involved and long post

Youre right Gregg. It is a bit involved. Feel free to comment on any part of it as I respect your opinion.

Tune in tomorrow as I examine some of the more specific claims Mr. Miller makes re: President Jefferson and watch Miller squirm.

ATVLC said...

No, he should use the Conservative Bible "Retranslation" Project version.

There are also skeptics of the project, (Page includes examples)

ATVLC said...

No, he should use the Conservative Bible "Retranslation" Project version.

There are also skeptics of the project, (Page includes examples)

(Re-posting this comment because Blogger seems to have eaten it)

Ilíon said...

"I don't know how one would go about prosecuting covetousness. That's best left to God."


And yet, isn't so much of the "liberal" project based explicitly on having the State prosecute certain things best left to God's? Non-exhaustively:
1) outlawing "greed"
2) outlawing "selfishness"
3) outlawing "hate"
4) outlawing "racism"

Ilíon said...

[... best left to God?]

Dad29 said...

FYI, I picked up your post via Vox Day, and a commenter challenged me to cite Dr. Bradford's work. So I visited the U of D site--and could not find Dr. Bradford listed in either History or Politics at Constantin.

Did he retire? Leave?

And is there an online cite for the paper you reference?

Jquip said...

JD: The Anti-Texas riff has to do with the tear that Cynthia Dunbar has been on. There's a lot of high drama, but I've yet to see any slam dunk bad choices there.

You also might get a kick outta this.

Tristan D. Vick said...

Jefferson and Paine were deists, but also anti-theists. When Jefferson ran against John Adams, part of Adams' smear campaign was to label Jefferson as "The Atheist."

Still, the people voted for Jefferson because of his promise to stay out of the way if a religious revolt should occur, and his promise that the Government wouldn't back any faith institution sounded more appealing than Adams' fundamentalist attitudes with regard to his faith.

If you're interest in this you might want to read the letters between the two men. Very interesting discourse to be had there.

Thomas Paine may have been even more anti-theistic in his position than Jefferson. "The Age of Reason" is proof enough of this.

Yet a deist in my book is just an atheist who believes that the idea of God is compelling. Not that such a vague and nebulous concept is real. If you read Paine, his comments come off as totally pantheistic, so I would assume he believed in the "God of the philosophers," the same (or at least) similar God of Einstein and Spinoza.

High and Dry said...

RE: Bradford at UD, he's long passed away.

I Feel someone should point out that the list of signers presented in this blog post is not at all correct. Many of the names are listed in the wrong state or not actually listed on the Declaration.

Greenwood said...

"Jefferson and Paine were deists, but also anti-theists"

Real Deists believed in the watchmaker God--a non-personal 'God of the philosophers' type. I can't speak for Paine, but Jefferson wasn't a Deist. He was more of a 19th Century Unitarian; in other words, what liberal Christianity used to be before it inevitably descended into Gaia-worship and seminars on safe fisting.

Scott said...

High and Dry,

The post clearly states they're signatories of the Constitutional Convention--not the Declaration of Independence.

Bohemian said...

Boulevard Double Wide IPA

JD Curtis said...

The post clearly states they're signatories of the Constitutional Convention--not the Declaration of Independence

Thanks Scott. This list from archives.gov matches every single name above with the state the represented at the convention. (Apparently RI didnt send anyone)

Ilíon said...

"(Apparently RI didnt send anyone)"

Thus, I think, the quip of the time: "Rogue Island"

JD Curtis said...


Here the link that contained the information...


I can save you the time of actually going there because the link appears to be broken at this time.

It was working in the past and can be found on the greater list of Primary Source Documents...


photogr said...

OK So what does this all have to do with what Jefferson and the others did as founders of the United States, Constitution, and the Declaration?

What their ideaology did was create a nation where all could live and prosper in freedom. Abe Lincoln capped it off with granting freedom to slaves too which caused a civil war unfortunately.

Now we have a socilaist/ Marxist movement in Washington that wants to change or ignore what those founders created for an ideaology that will take away those freedoms for an ideaology that historically has been proven to be corrupt, ineffective,and leads to a dictatorship or worse. Does Stalin, Hitler, or Sadam Hussen come to mind?