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.
Nice selective quoting.
>> 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?
He didn't. The so-called "Democratic-Republican Party", also called the Republican Party by Jefferson, was started by Jefferson and Madison in 1792 in opposition to the Federalist Party. The Republican Party's ideology was close to that of the anti-Federalists, promoting a weak federal government, with the bulk of the power resting in the states.
The party named "the Democratic Party" was formed in 1828 after the Republican Party splintered into the Whigs and the Democratic Party. This was the origin of the modern-day Democratic Party; but it was in no way ideologically similar to the modern-day democrats.
The original Democratic Party was a states-rights party, like the modern-day conservative branch of the republican party (it was, after all, the party of Andrew Jackson). The Democratic Party's ideology evolved (or became bastardized) in the 20th Century from a limited-federal government, strong state's rights party, to a strong federal government, limited state's rights party.
I seriously doubt that even JFKennedy would recognize the Democrat Party of today. LBJ would.
I don't find that him going to church and so on is great evidence of him being a believer. Even today it is expected that our leaders go to church. Why would anyone expect it to be different in Jefferson's time?
"He didn't. The so-called "Democratic-Republican Party", also called the Republican Party by Jefferson, was started by Jefferson and Madison in 1792 in opposition to the Federalist Party. The Republican Party's ideology was close to that of the anti-Federalists, promoting a weak federal government, with the bulk of the power resting in the states. "
Thanks for handling this, Philip. Nice post that hopefully provided some education.
At that point, I usually just curtail the discussion because I know I am dealing with someone who hasn't the slightest idea what they are talking about.
No one's claiming Jefferson (or any other protestants at the time) liked Catholics. If I'm not mistaken, "priest" was meant literally here.
Thanks for posting!
It seems I've been discussing (or reading discussions about) it for years, too (though I'm normally on the other side of the discussion). And one thing I've noticed: BOTH sides pick and choose text from Jefferson's letters to support their argument.
Only one fact is indisputable: Jefferson is no longer around to tell us what he was really thinking.
My guess is that, like every single other human being, he thought and wondered and may have even changed his mind about certain things once in awhile; thus, we have all these different writings from him that sometimes seem to contradict each other.
All I have to say is, if he and the other Forefathers wanted to create an exclusively Christian nation, they certainly erred by not being more specific in the Constitution, because it's not mentioned there.
These are very selective quotations on your part. Jefferson believed Jesus was a great philosopher rather than the son of God and thus the Virgin Birth was a nonsense. Indeeed, hbelieved that all supernatural elements of New Testatment were later additions. If you think that still makes him a Christian, that is your right.
Mentioning Christianity would have been redundant since the nation was already an exclusively Christian nation. The founders did not, however, want to create an exclusively Baptist nation, or an exclusively Methodist nation, etc..
For example, Oliver Ellsworth, a Connecticut delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, in explaining to the people the clause that prohibits a religious test for public office, stated, "A test in favor of any one denomination of Christians would be to the last degree absurd in the United States. If it were in favor of Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Baptists, or Quakers, it would incapacitate more than three-fourths of the American citizens for any public office and thus degrade them from the rank of freemen."
On swearing to a belief in God at the time of appointment or admission to government office, Ellsworth resolved, "His (an officeholder) making a declaration of such a belief is no security at all. For suppose him to be an unprincipled man who believes neither the Word nor the being of God, and be governed merely by selfish motives; how easy is it for him to dissemble! How easy is it for him to make public declaration of his belief in the creed which the law prescribes and excuse himself by calling it a mere formality."
Ellsworth summarized by arguing that it must be left to the people to ensure the people elected and appointed to public office be of high moral character and not selfishly motivated, rather than via some legislated formality. We, the People, are ultimately responsible for moral leadership.
It is clear the Founding Fathers favored traditional Christian moralities; but they were also concerned with government legislated ideologies of a selective, immoral or oppressive nature. However, they were just as fearful of government legislating religious morality out of our lives.
For example, in his Farewell Address, George Washington warned we should forever be "indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts." He added, "With slight shades of differences, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together."
On the instructions of George Washington I wear an indignant frown, and I wear it like crown.
Actually, Franklin and Jefferson's views on religion are better described as Masonic rather than Christian.....though I agree that they were quite different than many modern secular humanists.
Jefferson's writing reveal a man whose true beliefs may have wavered, changed, and changed back again during his life. So have mine.
However, the only real thoughts that have an impact are those of our Lord Himself. His words, His acts, His love overwhelm even the philosophy of a giant like Jefferson.
1) Jackson had a plan for a national bank to replace the BUS. It was no different in any sense, except it would be controlled by Dems, not Whigs.
2) Jackson advanced a plan for the federal government to prohibit and eliminate all PRIVATE note issues. (That doesn't sound very small government/states rights to me)
3) Jackson overrode a states rights Supreme Court decision on the Cherokee and imposed a racist national removal policy, rather than let the fair Georgia policy stand.
4) The federal budget in real terms, and in per capita terms, grew throughout Jackson's terms. It did flatten under Van Buren---only because there was a bad depression (in a couple of depressions, the federal budget flattened).
5) Several new departments were added under Jackson.
6) He threatend to crush South Carolina over the tariff "nullification." There was a compromise, but again this hardly marks AJ as an advocate of states rights.
Jackson was for JACKSON. He was the Clinton of his era, and had nothing in common with a real small government Dem, Grover Cleveland, who took stand after stand on principle.
good post thanks
>>I don't find that him going to church and so on is great evidence of him being a believer.<<
Of course. But there are more examples of Jefferson's faith in the WND column (click on the World Net Daily link), and in his letters. On at least three occasions Jefferson wrote explicitly that he was a Christian, the most notable of which I mentioned in the main body of this thread.
LS, thanks for the Jackson info.
Thank you. I'll read immediately.
But since I'm a Christian, I have to go by the Bible which says that you can't get good fruit from a bad tree, or vice versa. I think there is actually a pretty straight line from the Dems of the 1800s to the Dems of today. They've always hated blacks---except now they enslave them with welfare. The GOP, with some zigs and zags around the tariff---has always liberated people and still is.