DEISM AND THE FOUNDING FATHERS

On the Pilgrim Road

What is Deism?

One thing that is common these days is to assert that the Founding Fathers were Deists.  Since I doubt that the term deism is especially well understood, let us start with a definition.

deism noun, often capitalized
de·​ism |  ˈdē-ˌi-zəm  , ˈdā-  
: a movement or system of thought advocating natural (see NATURAL entry 1 sense 8b) religion, emphasizing morality, and in the 18th century denying the interference of the Creator with the laws of the universe (from here (merriam-webster.com)

Merriam-Webster’s definition includes this note.

Did You Know?
Belief in God based on reason rather than revelation or the teaching of any specific religion is known as deism. The word originated in England in the early 17th century as a rejection of orthodox Christianity. Deists asserted that reason could find evidence of God in nature and that God had created the world and then left it to operate under the natural laws devised by God. By the late…

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37 thoughts on “DEISM AND THE FOUNDING FATHERS

  1. One of the main reasons that God protects America is that it is the only nation ever established to honor Him in a manner such as our founders desired to honor Him. If America ever loses affinity for God (and it seems to be in the works) than I am sure we will find ourselves suffering some of the same chastisements that were suffered by Israel of Biblical Times. But people do not wish to listen to this. People should be listening.

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    1. @John

      That is true! Funny thing is we don’t have to be a Christian to believe it. We just have to believe in the wisdom of Christian morality. If the people of society love each other, make their choices based upon what is best for everyone, then the society as a whole prospers. If every individual is out for himself, doesn’t care about his neighbors, doesn’t trust his trust his neighbors and cannot be trusted by them, then the society as a whole will b impoverished.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. and “Impoverished” in the things that really matter is exactly what our current moral decline is slowly bringing upon us … Sooner or later I expect to see some of the same chastisements (Or similar chastisements) that God used to correct the errancy of Ancient Israel.

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  2. I really appreciated this article, Tom. To speak plainly, “the founding fathers were Deists,” is simply what we say, how we try to separate and divide our country from any evidence of it’s obvious Christian roots.

    Cultural context is also vitally important, as seen in this sentence, “The word originated in England in the early 17th century as a rejection of orthodox Christianity.” Many people were actually rejecting the monarchy, rejecting the politics, rejecting the religious powers that be. A Deist was not an atheist, they were usually Christian people disillusioned by human power structures that defined faith for them.

    Go back even farther, way back, and the first atheists where actually Christians. Your theist, your god was Pharaoh, Caesar, or Rome. Christians were often perceived as anti theists, atheists, hence all the persecution. Still true today.

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    1. @IB

      Good comment!

      The first time I read that the Pagans labelled Christians Atheists my jaw dropped. If you only believe in one God, you are an Atheist? What people do with words can be very strange. Often we are more interested in characterizing our opponents than speaking the truth.

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  3. Can a person be defined as Christian if that person accepts the moral teachings of Jesus but denies (or doubts) his divinity and denies (or doubts) his miracles, including his resurrection? I think not. Mohandas Gandhi was as firm as Franklin and Jefferson in agreeing with the moral teachings of Jesus and the Bible, but he remained Hindu, refusing to accept Jesus as Lord and as Savior. I realize that many diverse groups of Christians have different views of what qualifies a person to be called a Christian. But the Bible itself states that Jesus is more than a prophet–he is the Son of the Living God–and that those who call themselves Christian but deny the resurrection of Jesus are to be pitied more than anyone else in the world (I Corinthians 15). While the evidence of Washington’s faith (or lack thereof) is inconclusive, I think we must accept by their own testimony that Franklin and Jefferson were Deists and not Christians. J.

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    1. @Salvageable

      I included this line in the article.

      If these men were Deists, then they were Christian Deists.

      Those that were Deists still accepted and practiced Christian moral teachings. However, they did not accept the divinity of Jesus.

      What will Jesus do with such men and women? I don’t know. Not for me to decide.

      Abraham was saved, but He never knew Jesus. So, even though Jesus says He is the way, the truth, and the life, I think we have to admit that a spiritual acceptance of Jesus is what matters, faith in God and not our self.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Tom,

        Well said. I have come to essentially the same understanding.

        I think that there was something essential about Jesus’ teaching and His example that he looked at our common connections, the loving embrace of inclusion rather than exclusion. Didn’t Jesus often correct the Pharisees and his own followers who sought to exclude others, where those others were sinners or Samaritans?

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        1. @tsalmon

          It is a requirement to love your neighbor. Part of showing that love is holding others accountable as we would have others hold us accountable. Unrepentant sinners risk Hell.

          The Pharisees in their arrogance did not hold others accountable as they wish to be held accountable. Matthew 23.

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          1. “It is a requirement to love your neighbor. Part of showing that love is holding others accountable as we would have others hold us accountable.”

            In the most general sense, that is my understanding as well. When it comes to specific issues, well ….

            Kate used to like to say that people have a way of crawling into there own Hell. Some people even try to drag you in after them. Occasionally they do this with self-righteous religious fervor and tell you that they are doing it for your own good.

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          2. @tsalmon

            Kate summarized what Jesus said in Matthew 23. I think part of the way we avoid such behavior is by remembering we are just God’s creatures, not God. When another person sins, we can point it out, but only God can make them repent.

            Do you believe everyone will be saved? I don’t. At least the Bible seems quite clear that some of us will go to Hell. Jesus is actually says quite a bit about the subject.

            I am not God, but I have tried to consider the matter from His point of view. When God saves one of us, He accepts our company for eternity. I don’t know how I could stand my own company for that long. So I think He has much work to do on me.

            Philippians 1:6 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

            6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

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          3. There is a string that’s running in Catholicism right now of Universalism founded in the Theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar and his idea: “Dare we hope all men to be saved.” Bishop Robert Barron is big proponent of this idea and his audience reach is large so it’s gaining more traction. Adherents will attempt to say “I’m not saying that no one is in Hell, but there’s a hope of all to be saved.” It’s rather circular logic and in fact, ironically, is the same logic employed by Pelagius against Augustine who said, “I’m not saying there is anyone without sin, I’m talking about the possibility..”

            Augustine didn’t buy it and neither do I. But Balthasar didn’t like Augustine, so there you go.

            Catholic Theologian Ralph Martin has been trying to fight this strain of teaching in the Catholic Church. Matthew 7 is pretty clear.

            Liked by 1 person

          4. @Phillip

            Never thought of the entire chapter, Matthew 7, as having the same theme, but I suppose that explains that particular chapter division.

            If one is what we call a Liberal these days, the temptation to promote Universalism is fairly obvious. The only “virtue” Liberals seem to vigorously promote is the tolerance of sin. Only if we believe in Universalism, a God who forgives unconditionally, does such tolerance seem loving. Only then does indifference to depravity, because we avoid strife, seem appropriate.

            Romans 1:28-32 New King James Version (NKJV)
            28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

            Murder and violence are the only things listed here that are illegal. Otherwise, we strive against such sins only to the extent custom still makes such sins socially unacceptable.

            Increasingly, our leaders refuse to hold lawbreakers accountable. Consider some examples.
            => https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/bail-reform-new-york-tammy-bruce
            => https://www.politico.com/news/2020/01/20/marijuana-legalization-federal-laws-100688
            => https://www.foxnews.com/politics/ice-illegal-immigrants-freed-by-new-york-citys-sanctuary-city

            Instead, our news media demonizes law abiding citizens. Here is an example from Virginia, where I live. Because Democrats now have a lock on both the executive and legislative branches (result of the election in November 2019), Democrats can do as they wish in Virginia.

            What was the first thought out of Liberal Democrat heads? Well, thanks to campaign funding from some billionaires, it is gun control. So, ordinary citizens decided to campaign for gun sanctuaries (counties refusing to enforce state laws that violate the second amendment) and demonstrate at the state capitol.

            How did our governor react? He declared a state of emergency, proclaiming another Charlottesville. The Crony Capitalist news media supported the narrative. Nonsense, of course.
            => https://www.foxnews.com/politics/ice-illegal-immigrants-freed-by-new-york-citys-sanctuary-city
            => https://www.newsbusters.org/blogs/nb/nicholas-fondacaro/2020/01/20/cbs-claims-week-violence-occurred-virginia-gun-rally

            Second Amendment advocates demonstrated peacefully. Never was much doubt they would demonstrate peacefully. Conservative activists don’t defecate in their own houses.

            Charlottesville happened because government officials did not let the police arrest Antifa. Because the demonstration in Charlottesville was relatively small, the Antifa cowards came to the demonstration in Charlottesville armed with baseball bats and such, and the police did nothing.

            Same sort of crap happened when the Tea Party demonstrated. We didn’t have to deal with counterdemonstrators, but the news media either ignored us or called us bigots.

            Liberal Democrats are not all that tolerant. They most certainly won’t tolerate those who don’t approve of their sins.

            What Liberal Democrats want us to tolerate often doesn’t even make sense. Marijuana, for example. These same people go ape over tabacco. Why would they think marijuana okay? Answer? Think it is money. Politicians sued and taxed the Tabaco industry to get money of it. To get money out of marijuana, however, they had to legalize it and pretend there is not anything wrong with marijuana.

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          5. How much of our concern about who goes to Hell is a legitimate and loving concern for our own souls and the souls of the image of Christ we find mirrored in our neighbors? How much of our fear of Hell comes from the love of the (yes, “universal”) Christ, our longing for a Him and our desire that none of us be separated from Him, and how much do we wield the punishment of Hell like a tribal shibboleth to smugly judge the sincere soteriology of the “other” (our modern day Samaritan) with a sick sense of schadenfreude for the peril of their suffering? As fellow sinners, these attitudes should concern us when our theological gaze turns away from the positive promise of glorious union with Christ, now in this life and in the next, and instead starts concerning itself with the negative categorizations of who Christ will send to Hell.

            Christianity is the opposite of an exclusive club with a gated fence – our doors are open to even the worst sinner who sincerely seeks the miraculous love of God with a contrite heart.

            I believe that if someone does not find a relationship with incarnate Christ in this life, that person is already in a sort of Hell. I believe that if a person through love finds a relationship with the universal, the eternal, the incarnate Christ always and forever in the world, that person is already in a sort of Heaven, even if that person does not know it is the universal Christ that he/she is experiencing. This is my small and continuing revelation of God in my life anyway.

            If a pagan, an atheist or another denomination of theist, loves the image of God that he finds everywhere in everything, and especially in his neighbors, as Tom says, who am I to condemn him to Hell? Not my job.

            I’m not accusing anyone of being wrong in their own theology about Hell. I’m just saying that when we start projecting God’s condemnation of Hell, don’t you think we should be careful to take a deep, hard look that our motivations for doing so are filled with love.

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          6. @tsalmon

            You do realize you are most emphactually condemning those who talk about sin and the relationship between sin and Hell. What are your motivations?

            Because their soteriology was incorrect, Jesus criticized the Jews of His day, and to the extent we can, we are supposed to imitate Jesus. Humility requires us to admit that we can only do a little of what Jesus did.

            One problem that arises when we imitate Jesus is that we often don’t know what we are talking about. Fortunately, the Bible provides God’s officiallly endorsed guide to theology. Therefore, we can read it and pray for wisdom and understanding.

            Consider some questions the Bible answers.
            1. How did Jesus save us?
            2. What did Jesus save us from?
            3. What do we have to do to be saved?
            4. What is sin?
            5. Why does God hate sin?
            6. Why did Jesus save us?
            7. Who is Jesus?

            To spread the Gospel to others, we must know the answer to questions such as these.

            Unfortunately, as our Savior explained, not everyone likes the message of the Gospel. In fact, most of us find it offensive, at least when we first hear it. Why? We all sin, and we all have sins we don’t wish to give up.

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          7. “You do realize you are most emphactually condemning those who talk about sin and the relationship between sin and Hell. What are your motivations?”

            No, not at all, not if you read what I wrote for meaning and comprehension. I simply said that we should all check our motivations to see if they are founded in God’s love. Do you seriously disagree with that?

            “Because their soteriology was incorrect, Jesus criticized the Jews of His day, and to the extent we can, we are supposed to imitate Jesus. Humility requires us to admit that we can only do a little of what Jesus did.“

            Agree with that. We should imitate Jesus but we should not pretend to BE Jesus.

            As to youR questions, I think that for two thousand years people have been giving your questions a great deal of contemplation. Most of my life, they are just the questions that I have been studying and contemplating. They are good questions, perhaps the only questions that matter. You may remember, however, that everyone does not answer all those questions the same way, and wars have been fought over those disputes, often because people valued human certainty over infinite mystery, people valued dogma over faith, people valued their doctrinal interpretation of the message over the it’s overwhelming meaning. In the end though, if we sinners divide in hate over our pride for our own answers to these questions, I tend to think then we definitely don’t really understand the questions to begin with.

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          8. @tsalmon

            You may remember, however, that everyone does not answer all those questions the same way, and wars have been fought over those disputes, often because people valued human certainty over infinite mystery, people valued dogma over faith, people valued their doctrinal interpretation of the message over the it’s overwhelming meaning. In the end though, if we sinners divide in hate over our pride for our own answers to these questions, I tend to think then we definitely don’t really understand the questions to begin with.

            Meaning we don’t need to understand? If we do need to understand what God has revealed to us, what do we need to understand? Do you and I need to understand each other?

            God inspired the writing of the Bible to reveal certain truths to us? Does anyone understand all of the Bible? No. Do we argue about its meaning? Yes.Can’t God communicate with us more clearly than that? I guess so, but this is what He has chosen, and we can mostly make sense of the Bible if we make the effort. Most Christians (people who call themselves Christians) don’t make the effort.

            As Phillip mentioned earlier (Matthew 7), as you have said, we choose between Heaven and Hell. What kind of God would leave us ignorant of our choice and its consequences?

            Do our disputes mean we cannot understand the Bible, render understanding unimportant? No. It just means we are sinners, and we struggle with our sinfulness.

            Jesus left us no doubt He wants us to know Him.

            John 14:1-6 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

            14 “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way where I am going.” 5 Thomas *said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” 6 Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

            We are supposed to follow Jesus. If we love Him, we will obey Him. We will love each other as He loves us.

            Jesus is the Truth. We can only know the Truth. We can only reveal the Truth to each other when we love Jesus and obey Him.

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          9. You are a funny bird sometimes brother. You search to find divisions. Anyway, if you read what I wrote carefully, I don’t think that, in the most general sense, I disagreed with any of what you just so eloquently declared (or at least what you questioned) above.

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          10. The older that I get the less certain that I am of anything that really matters . . . and the more faith that I have in everything that I hope really matters.

            I don’t think that a relationship with Christ is supposed to be a contest. And yet didn’t a jealous Cain kill Abel over what Cain believed was just such a competition for God’s favor? The establishment Jewish orthodoxy at least precipitated the crucifixion of Jesus. Do you think that they thought they were competing with, even battling Jesus over who appeared to have the greater knowledge and favor of God?

            Jesus told all those parables where He seems to cherish the humble longing of the lost seeker, perhaps even more than the certainty of those who think that they are safe, saved and satisfied. Does that mean that the first thing we should guard against is a sense of doctrinal superiority?

            One can not long for the infinite if he thinks he already possess it. To be strong in faith is to be meek in certainty. To call out lost in the wilderness seems to be how God finds us. Lot’s of paradoxes, I know.

            I think a healthy and humble debate over how to let God find us and save us is good, but we both recognize Who is really in control, don’t we? As long as we both agree on that, any other dispute we may have in regard to God regard could be interesting, but should be unimportant. Neither of us are likely to impress God with our pomposity about Him (but that doesn’t mean we won’t try to impress each other, now does it). 😉

            So am I certain that we don’t have a real disagreement? Well, I’m not trying to. I started out my comments here agreeing with your post and stating why.

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          11. @tsalmon

            Consider again that moment when Jesus told Pete: “you follow Me.” That was a rebuke. We are suppose to compete in a contest over God. When God is infinite, what would be the point? God can give each of us more of Himself than we know what to do with.

            Humility, in a nutshell, is obedience to God. What do I think we disagree about? How do we obey God?

            I don’t think that what God wants from us is an undiscernible mystery. To understand what God wants from us, we have the Bible, we have the moral law in our hearts, and we have the handicraft of His Creation.

            Do we both agree about the meaning of the Bible? Does not seem to be the case. Since the Bible is the revelation of God, I think we have to take the Bible seriously and do our best to obey the instructions it gives us. Love is not enough. To be obedient to God, we must understand what He wants from us. That requires the understanding and wisdom we find the Bible.

            When we can plainly understand the meaning of the Bible, “love” does not give us an excuse to disobey it. God is love. His commands are designed to protect us. If we don’t understand the reason for one of his commands, then we have to study the matter more carefully. God is not wrong, but we can be.

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          12. Tom,

            Again, in a general sense, I agree with most of that, and I think we also agree that only God can judge if the Bible is sui generis to any given person’s salvation, not me and not you.

            In the Bible, Jesus tells us what to DO and gives us His example of how to ACT. However, if rabbinical knowledge of the Bible were all it takes to have that dynamic relationship with the incarnate Christ, then every Biblical scholar would be a saint and every saint would be a biblical scholar.

            If perfect scholarly knowledge of the Bible were required, the incarnate Christ would not act in history eternal and universal. Instead, He would be the small kitchen god of a few people lucky enough to be academics in the right time and right place during only the last 2000 years. Remember, it’s called “The ACTS of the Apostles” not the “The STUDIES of the Apostles”.

            We study the Bible for greater revelation through God’s grace on what to DO, not to wage a war of superiority over what to BELIEVE (not that we have not done that a good deal throughout history). If we are studying the Bible solely to use the gift of that knowledge and opportunity in order to assert a dogmatic superiority of belief over others, then we better make sure that our motivation is loving sacrificial service rather our desire for Pharisaic exclusion and control, don’t you think?

            Most of what we believe is mysterious beyond our comprehension, even with the advantage of the Bible. Most of it is revelatory only by God’s grace through our faith and hope, not by the dogmatic certainty of superior interpretive scholarly study.

            Do you honestly disagree with any of that, or are you just talking past agreement on the miraculous to pick at the inane? I mean, that’s entertaining too, I guess. 😊

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          13. @tsalmon

            We are saved by faith, not the Bible. Is the Bible irrevelent? No.

            This line is part of Luke 12:48. It is the ending of a parable.

            From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.

            The good works we do in this life do not save us; they serve as proofs to our self, not others, that we have been saved. Yet even that is only true if we do those works to glorify God and out of love for our neighbors.

            Our mother was a very humble soul. If we are certain she is in heaven, then it is because we saw her serve others in love.

            The Bible is a gift. It is much we have been given. So, more is expected from us.

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          14. Other than to clarify that I never said the Bible is “irrelevant”, Amen to all of that.

            Faith in a religious sense is “strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof”. (From Merriam-Webster). Belief is action and action is belief. At the risk of sounding transactional, faith and good works have always been different sides of the same coin. The coin spends the same way in eternity no matter which side we happen to be looking at in the moment.

            This chicken and egg dispute over spirit and matter focuses on a momentary mutability at the expense of missing the beautiful dance of their eternal interdependence. The mystery of grace through faith, like hope and love, reflects itself in its dynamic manifestations, This dispute over priority in time and importance only serves to distract the sinner from experiencing the gift itself.

            If you are interested, Mildred Wynkcoop explains all this through detail scriptural explanation better than I can here.

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          15. @tsalmon

            Faith in a religious sense is “strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof”.

            If we want to understand what Christian faith, Hebrews 11 is a good place to start. Contrary to what some say, we don’t believe just because we want to believe. Faith begins with knowledge such as that provided by the Bible. Our faith increases when we act in faith and begin to see that we actually can trust our Lord.

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          16. What is love disembodied from its manifestations? An abstract longing? Can some act out lovingly and love simultaneously? Was there an actual separation between God’s love and the God’s manifestations of that love? If Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, then isn’t He consubstantial in His active eternal sacrifice as well as His eternal love?

            God invented time to aid in our comprehension, our sentience, but to be eternal is to transcend such changes, to be undefinable in terms of temporal causality and infinitely always, mysteriously changeless while manifesting everywhere in change, to be the causeless cause, the unmoved mover, the eternal “I am”.

            In the Webster definition that I gave above, “apprehension” of God’s manifested love comes from a spiritual awakening we call faith, but God’s spiritual love and its material manifestations were eternally and universally actively calling to us and awaiting our spiritual and active reply. Not a single molecule of our being would exist without the eternal ongoing action of God’s love.

            Through grace we can only glimpse in apprehending these infinite mysteries, but the limitations in our apprehension should not limit God to our small reality. The Bible is a tiny window for that glimpse at the infinite, but we should be careful not use it to put an infinitely undefinable God in to anyone’s tiny doctrinal box.

            The only use that I can think of to quibble over chicken and egg mysteries like this discussion of faith verses good works is try to put God in one doctrinal box or another, when it is only us we wish to box in and others we wish to box out.

            Can a person who does good works out of sacrificial love, even though she never read the Bible or thinks that she believes in it, exist in a state of God’s grace? I don’t know, but why would I want to deny it? What purpose does that serve?

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          17. @tsalmon

            Sorry about the slow reply. Been sick. Hopefully, I am on the mend.

            You are getting a bit too obtuse for me to follow. My guess is that we are each so busy promoting our own point of view we are talking past each other.

            My focus is trying to get you to understand why the Bible is important. I get the feeling you don’t think it is, that you can ignore parts of it.

            In God thought and deed are probably the same thing. In us, that is definitely not true. With respect to God, faith justifies us (thought), and our actions (deeds) manifest our faith. Our deeds are loving sacrifices to our Lord given to Him just because we love Him.

            Except our obedience, there is nothing we can give God that He doesn’t already possess. Therefore, even though our obedience cannot save us, our obedience is the only thing we have that has any true value.

            Our feelings are thus more important than our actions. However, if how we describe our feelings is not in accord with our actions, then we are at best faking it.

            We manifest our love for God by obeying Him. As Christians we learn to obey God by studying His word.

            Can someone who has never read the Bible exist in God’s grace. Read Hebrews 11. Abraham predated the Bible. He was justified without the Bible. I think the Aposte Paul describes what is going on here (Romans 2:12-16).

            There are Christians who are adamant that only Christians go to heaven. Don’t think the Bible says that, but exactly how does God judge us? I don’t know. Jesus is God incarnate. Only a few people met Jesus the man, but all of us can meet God through His Creation and that which he has written upon our hearts.

            Jesus is God. To be saved we must know Him, not the Bible. If we want to know Him, however, we will read the Bible because He wants us to.

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          18. Tom,

            I hope you are feeling better brother. There is definitely something going around.

            Other than some misunderstandings on small matters of priority and semantics, I don’t disagree with the most important parts of your last, or with any of your comments here. In fact I think it is extremely well said, far better than I could say it, and what you have written increases my knowledge greatly and affirms much of what I think I already know.

            “My focus is trying to get you to understand why the Bible is important. I get the feeling you don’t think it is, that you can ignore parts of it.“

            Nope, again, not at all. In every word of the Bible, God was trying to say something to the people of the time when it was written and, through our exegesis, to us today. I don’t know if everything has the same importance to salvation though. For example, I think that you would agree that the obscure dietary laws and the sexual customs on circumcision and menstruation are not as relevant to our current salvation as the Gospels are. I think that an illiterate person who never read Leviticus could nevertheless be saved if he only was told about the Gospels.

            I also distrust formulaic doctrinal disputes over infinite mysteries that only have served to divide and exclude Christians and practitioners of other religions from more profound universal understanding. For example, as a Catholic, I can place far greater importance on the sacraments than some Protestant might without also feeling the need to exclude that other religionist from salvation. I think that such mysteries are gifts of God’s grace to be discussed and shared, not weapons to exclude.

            Liked by 1 person

      2. Tom,
        Is it correct to label someone a Christian who denies the divinity of Jesus? C.S. Lewis wrote that, when considering the identity of Jesus, we have three choices: he is a Lunatic, a Liar, or the Lord. If he thinks he is God but is wrong, he is a Lunatic. If he says he is God but knows that he is not, he is a Liar. But if he says that he is God and is correct, then he is the Lord.
        In John 8:56, Jesus says, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” So Abraham did know Jesus, which is why Abraham was saved. J.

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        1. @Salvageable

          That’s is a good verse to quote, but how do we interpret it? Abraham did not know Jesus as his Savior the same way we know Jesus. Abraham did not even have the Old Testament. Yet because of his faith he was justified. How did Abraham know Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Abraham did not have a written Bible, but he was included in an oral tradition that went back to Adam and Eve, who were promised a Savior who would crush the serpent’s head. Moreover, Abraham had personal conversations with the Lord; I am convinced that we spoke with Jesus, not the Father, because of John 1:18 (“No one has seen the Father; the only-begotten Son has made him known.”) There has always been one way (and only one way) to be saved from sin and evil. That way is faith in the promised Savior. Two thousand years before that Savior was born, Abraham was saved by believing that he would come. Two thousand years after that Savior was born, we are saved by believing that he has come. J.

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  4. Tom,

    Very well written. Like SW, I’m a little unclear about your conclusions, but maybe that is how you meant to leave it.

    One of the difficulties that I think constitutional originalists have in their paleo-mental telepathy with these highly influential dead white men is in drawing broad associations that conclude that they all thought the same way. These were all highly intelligent independent thinkers who, as you say, each may have considered themselves a “sect of his own”. Therefore, in our efforts to make general statements and to find a label like “Christian” and “Deism” we may ignore very important distinctions and differences between the Founders, distinctions that may have resulted from the dialectical interplay of many competing philosophical and theological influences where each of these important Founders became his own unique and dynamically changing amalgamation
    of those influences.

    As you know, human understanding rarely develops in a linear way. Rather, multiple philosophies and theologies collide and unite in diverse ways. Kinetic human interaction (wars and battles and even politics) can evolve and devolve human knowledge in unpredictable ways that, like philosophical dialectics, are neither deterministic nor homogeneous even after all the battles are won and lost. Just as theological debates were shaped (and continue to be shaped) by The Age of Reason, the purely kinetic outcomes of the Reformation Wars and the French Revolution also shaped the Founder’s philosophical and theological opinions and intentions which in turn influenced the political and physical battles they chose to fight, and so on and so on.

    The adversaries in our current political debates, like the Founders, also may be less homogeneous in their actual philosophies as their respective tribal partisan affiliations would have us think. Something about us, rather than studying these complex influences now and at the time of the founding, instead craves the simplicity of neat labels like Christian and Deist. And we need this labeling simplicity so that we can make broad (often demagogically broad) statements of intention for the Founders and the Founding documents. Then, armed with such manifestos, we attempt to sacralize our mere politics of the moment with the blessing of our supposedly theologically monolithic Founders.

    You do a wonderful job of pointing out many of these influence here. Perhaps the reason why you seem to have avoided broad conclusions is that you recognize how difficult that they are to make. For example, even though Madison, Adams and Hamilton all wrote statements that showed some sympathy for or a response against Deism, one could hardly also classify them either Deists or anti-Deists. People also don’t stay one thing their whole lives – we change. Although Hamilton seemed to eschew much participation in organized religion most of his life, early and late in his life that was different. As Hamilton lay dying from a moral wound from dueling Burr, he begged for the last rites of his church and, after saying that he never intended to actually kill Burr, he received them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @tsalmon

      Like SW, I’m a little unclear about your conclusions, but maybe that is how you meant to leave it.

      If these men were Deists, then they were Christian Deists.

      Like

  5. Tom,

    Because the founding fathers were Deists in the sense they believed in a Creator or reason for life doesn’t mean that atheists do not have the same Rights as Deists.

    What is the purpose of bringing up the fact that the majority of the founders in our Nation were Deists?

    Is it is to perhaps imply Deists have more morals or motivation to perhaps behave better as law abiding citizens?

    Or, perhaps to explain what has occurred over time is the results I am reading every day in the news about people with the freedom to choose whatever they want to believe about Creation or Atheism?

    Problem is that it not the same good news I read in the teachings of the New Testament of the Bible.

    Not to worry though, we have a Constitution and about a million laws that are much more progressive than the Bible. This is evidenced in the news reporting all the wisdom and love on display as a result of Founders Constriction which is s motivating everyone to “behave” like good, law abiding citizens.

    Regards and goodwill blogging.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Scatterwisdom

      I hope you are being sarcastic. Note that I did say this:

      If these men were Deists, then they were Christian Deists.

      Christians of every generation must battle for the souls of their fellows. To understand and ready ourselves for the challenge — to execute of tasks appropriately, we must have opened our eyes, counted the cost, and give ourselves to the task. But very few of us actually do that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Tom,

        Sarcasm, or truth of the direction in our Nation is headed, or jest ….

        Shakespeare later came closer to our contemporary version of the expression, in King Lear, 1605:

        “Jesters do oft prove prophets.”

        Sad or just a bad sarcastic jest, of the direction the USA has taken since our founding fathers by building a wall between religion and State.?

        Regards and goodwill blogging.

        Liked by 1 person

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