Skip to comments.Note to Tom Sullivan: Thomas Jefferson was not a Deist.
Posted on 04/28/2005 11:23:24 AM PDT by PhilipFreneau
Talk Radio Host Tom Sullivan, sitting in today for Rush Limbaugh, failed to challenge a caller (a self-declared "secularist") who labeled Jefferson a 'Deist'. Thomas Jefferson was no deist.
In the source column, Dr. James Kennedy wrote:
"While Jefferson has been lionized by those who seek to drive religion from public life, the true Thomas Jefferson is anything but their friend. He was anything but irreligious, anything but an enemy to Christian faith. Our nation's third president was, in fact, a student of Scripture who attended church regularly, and was an active member of the Anglican Church, where he served on his local vestry. He was married in church, sent his children and a nephew to a Christian school, and gave his money to support many different congregations and Christian causes."
Further reading of the column reveals this:
"Most intriguing is the manner in which Jefferson dated an official document. Instead of "in the year of our Lord," Jefferson used the phrase "in the year of our Lord Christ." Christian historian David Barton has the proof the original document signed by Jefferson on the "eighteenth day of October in the year of our Lord Christ, 1804.""
Dr. Kennedy does believe (or he did at the time of this column) that Jefferson had rejected the deism of Christ in 1813, after his public career was over. But that in no way makes Jefferson a Deist, which is defined as one who denies the interference of the Creator with the laws of the universe. To the contrary, Jefferson wrote in a June 26, 1822 letter to Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse:
"The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of man.
1. That there is one only God, and he all perfect.
2. That there is a future state of rewards and punishments.
3. That to love God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as thyself, is the sum of religion. These are the great points on which he endeavored to reform the religion of the Jews."
A belief that there is a future state of rewards and punishments (as Jefferson believed) denies the basic premise of Deism -- that the creator does not interfere with the laws of the universe. Jefferson was no deist.
Interesting. So what was the deal with the "Jefferson Bible"?
>> Interesting. So what was the deal with the "Jefferson Bible"?
I apologize for accidently putting my handle in the space where Dr. Kennedy's name should be. Dr. Kennedy wrote in the column:
"So what about the Jefferson Bible, that miracles-free version of the Scriptures? That, too, is a myth. It is not a Bible, but an abridgement of the Gospels created by Jefferson in 1804 for the benefit of the Indians. Jefferson's "Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth Extracted From the New Testament for the Use of the Indians" was a tool to evangelize and educate American Indians. There is no evidence that it was an expression of his skepticism. "
Jefferson certainly wasn't a Christian in the traditional sense. He was opposed to celebrating Thanksgiving as a national Holiday because he felt it was too religious.
If Jefferson was so religious, why then did he start an evil worshipping, US hating, muderer loving, tax the people to death cult called the Democ-rat party?
Ah, thank you. I should've gone to read the whole thing.
The so-called "Jefferson Bible" was an attempt by Jefferson to isolate what he believed the moral core of Christ's teaching was.
It is basically a redaction of the Four Gospels to eliminate all the miraculous elements of the text in favor of the didactic.
This is a facile undertaking, but he thought it was instructive.
It was not intended to be published but was made for his own study.
Sort of like Tolstoy taking only the 'Sermon on the Mount' and rejecting everything else.
But at the heart, there is something interesting there. Once in a while, you run up against someone who knows what they are talking about using a form of that argument in some context.
The democrat party of today was founded by FDR. The old, great democrats, like Cleveland, Horatio Seymour, and even Al Smith wouldn't recognize their party today. Jackson, Van Buren, Polk, and Lewis Cass were all great men worthy of following. It wasn't always like it is today.
Actually from reading he signed the proclamations at the state level. However, he did oppose it at the national level, as any good conservative would. It's not the business of the national government to set aside days for holidays. This goes for every major holiday, special day, birthday, etc. recognized by the national government. If the states want to, which they did and still do, let them handle holidays.
That's misleading. No one knows *exactly* why Jefferson created such a work other than Jefferson himself.
Jefferson's "Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth Extracted From the New Testament for the Use of the Indians" was a tool to evangelize and educate American Indians.
If I remember correctly, that's what one of the drafts was titled. But Jefferson never directly referred to it as such.
There is no evidence that it was an expression of his skepticism
I would say it's the most likely based on his correspondence to others about it.
If nothing else, it's irrefutable that Jefferson rejected what he saw as the supernatural apsects of Christianity - the Virgin Birth, Immaculate Conception, Resurrection, miracles, etc.
I've seen the Jefferson Bible; it's still sold in Charlottesville, VA today. However, I believe that Jefferson probably grew less deistic as he got older. As I read his later comments, they do not sound like words from a deist either. I haven't done a study on his writings, so I don't really know. It's a hunch.
You forgot the first part of this quote.
"The truth is that the greatest enemies to the doctrines of Jesus are those calling themselves the expositors of them, who have perverted them for the structure of a system of fancy absolutely incomprehensible, and without any foundation in his genuine words. And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this the most venerated reformer of human errors."
And the last line.
Yes, he did write these things. But he wrote other things that would argue against deistic tendencies as well. I remember reading what was written on the Jefferson Memorial and being really surprised. His writing that slavery concerned him because we have a just God is not the view of a man who believed that God was passive and no longer involved in the events of man. Jefferson is a complex man and taking a few of his words will never give adequate evidence of the totality and complexity, the nuance if you will, of his thoughts.
I agree, and the totality of his writings show that. But reason falls to current politics with statements like this:
Dr. Kennedy does believe (or he did at the time of this column) that Jefferson had rejected the deism of Christ in 1813, after his public career was over.
Utterly bogus. An attempt to Christianize Jefferson at the time of the Declaration of Independence by flipping his history.