Skip to comments.Doubting Thomas (Jefferson) and the Foundersí Great Mistake
Posted on 08/14/2012 6:58:03 AM PDT by marshmallow
The Enlightenment marked a fundamental shift from faith and focus on an afterlife to the material world and the pursuit of happiness in this life.
Editors Note: The beliefs of Thomas Jefferson continue to create controversy even though the Founding Father and third President of the U.S. died nearly two centuries ago. Just this past week, for example, World magazine reported that the large Evangelical publishing house, Thomas Nelson, decided to cease publication and distribution of David Bartons controversial book, "The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths Youve Always Believed about Thomas Jefferson", saying it has lost confidence in the books details. Barton is the president of the WallBuilders organization and a frequent guest on the Glenn Beck radio program; his book has been criticized for portraying Jefferson as sympathetic to Christianity while downplaying, or even ignoring, Jeffersons criticisms of orthodox Christianity. The following essay, written by Dr. Edmund Mazza of Azusa Pacific University, situates Jefferson within the broader context of the Enlightenment, which was generally antagonistic to what Jefferson dismissed as the monkish ignorance and priestly superstition of the Catholic Church.
Most Americans know Thomas Jefferson as the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and the nations third president. But Jefferson is also the famed founder of one of Americas oldest institutions of higher education, the University of Virginia. In this connection he is reported to have quipped that he hoped it would never retain a faculty of theology, nor ever become a den of monkish ignorance and priestly superstition. I have always found Jeffersons pontificating to be quite ironic since it was precisely these prelates of the Church who invented the university system in the first placesome six centuries before he did!
Jefferson, however, was a man of his age, a period in history known as.....
(Excerpt) Read more at catholicworldreport.com ...
Barton is not comfortable with the Enlightenment, how it came about, and how it affected the birth of this country. I'm glad to see him called on the carpet for this one.
I’ve speculated to myself that one could draw a line from the Enlightenment to Immanual Kant to Schleiermacher and finally to the crisis of Liberal Protestantism that we see today.
Lots of quotes from Voltaire, Locke, and even John Donne's poetry - but oh so little (if any) from Jefferson himself. In other words, the Founders' "great mistake" was simply being born during the Enlightenment Era.
1)While in Jefferson's day Catholicism was the absolute acme of "ignorance and superstition," Catholicism today tends to worship reason and science to such an extent that its criticisms (and at times ridicule) of Fundamentalist Protestants are no different from the secular culture. This is a most telling irony.
2)Somehow the "enlightenment's" exaltation of self-ownership and ultra-individualism have morphed into Marxist ultra-collectivism. It is often puzzling to read both liberal and conservative historical articles and find both ideologies routinely exalt, and then condemn, both ideologies (atomistic individualism and some sort of collective).
3)I notice that the seminal text of "separation of church and state"--"Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto G-d the things that are G-d's"--gets a pass.
4)As a conservative Catholic the author identifies "this world" with secularization and assigns as religion's ultimate concern a purely spiritual afterlife. I realize that the case can be made (and has been many times) that a national messianic fulfillment within history is the root of secular theories of historical teleology. However, it is equally true that such a fulfillment, when tied to no other means for attaining it than the ones assigned by G-d Himself, cannot be associated with secular utopianism in any way. As a matter of fact, the traditional spiritual messianism of historical chrstianity has encouraged secular utopian schemes by defaulting the reparation of the world to these secular schemers. A purely orthodox, Theonomic messianism, is the absolute opposite of any secular utopian scheme.
Now, all that being said, I'm glad to see this article here. While I am not a chrstian and do not regard the United States as a "chrstian nation" in any other than a demographic way, I differ from most who hold this opinion in believing that we would probably have been better off had our country had a more explicitly religious foundation (I refer not to the settlement but the founding of the current Constitutional system).
Much as it pains me, I share the reflexive head-shaking of liberals when naive conservatives speak as if the Founding Fathers were Divinely-commissioned to found a special, chosen, holy, Protestant nation. But unlike the liberals, I wish our founders and those who have governed us throughout our history had been more religiously orthodox than they were.
Conservatives are right that the United States is in our present time a nation of Indians ruled by Swedes (ie, Indians being the most religious and Swedes the least religious of national groups). Where conservatives err is in not recognizing that this is not a modern innovation at all; it has always been the case.
The temptation to see in one's own country a special, unique mission from G-d is not at all unusual--in fact, quite the opposite. And this attitude has been extremely common in chrstian countries, since countries that believe G-d became a man (chas vechalilah!) like to think that they are the type of man he became. Long before "American exceptionalism" there were mystical chrstian nationalisms in places like Ireland, Spain, Armenia, and Ethiopia.
To conclude with my own peculiar Noachide take on the situation: the Nation of Israel (meaning the Jewish people, not the state founded in 1948) was elected by G-d as His Special People in perpetuity precisely in order to give the nations of the world an objective, universal truth as opposed to subjective, local "truths." Local "gxds" are idols; Israel's G-d is the True G-d. Therefore (this is me speaking as a Noachide again) each and every nation must acknowledge Israel's election and accept the Jewish G-d in Jewish terms (not by becoming Jews, but by observing the Noachide Laws). Anything less than this is a local idol masquerading as a universal "gxd." Even here on FR some well-meaning chrstian FReepers seem to worship an "American gxd." Any American "gxd" would be like the "gxd" of any of the other nations of the world (Israel not being numbered among the nations of the world): an idol.
My final observation, though that of a Noachide, will have something that conservative Catholics will be able to understand. Long before abortion-on-demand and sodomy were "legalized" in this country--in fact, in our very origin--we internalized and "legitimized" something far worse: idolatry. Man does not have the "right" to worship a false "gxd." Yet this is the very thing upon which "religious freedom" rests. How can we defend the right of people to commit idolatry while we condemn far lesser sins?
Protestantism is based on the belief that G-d gives each person an "offer of salvation." Salvation is never mandatory, but always free. Though Catholicism is far less pluralistic and libertarian than Protestantism, it still teaches an offer of salvation made to man's free will (though here it gets hazy, since Catholicism seems to view salvation not only as a gift but a positive obligation as well). Judaism/Noachism is as simple as Protestantism but goes in the opposite direction.
What I am suggesting is that even if all the Founders had been good and orthodox chrstians, this country would still have been founded upon an error, since in fact religion is not salvational after all, but statutory.
In the end, the fact that the worship of the True G-d (or any "gxd" for whom the claim is made) is not mandatory is solely because our society views the absolute knowledge of which "gxd" and religion is true to be beyond it and something that will be learned definitively only upon death. Therefore we dare not compel the worship of the True G-d (or any "gxd" for whom the claim is made) nor forbid the worship of false "gxds." Because at rock bottom our whole society is based on the assumption that absolute assurance of which religion and god is true is not possible.
Jefferson's deism (the only position available before Darwin made absolute atheism possible) and his scorn for all religions is well known. Then of course there's his lacerated "bible."
Mazza is intellectualy unfit to even stand in Jefferson’s shadow. He and every other American Catholic should give thanks to God every day that our nation is one of enlightened religious freedom rather than one of a particular religious faith.
Yay! Yay! Hurray!
And now from that age known to Noachides as the absolute acme of ignorance and superstition:
5. We speak of the things which you see with your own eyes, which We both bemoan. Depravity exults; science is impudent; liberty, dissolute. The holiness of the sacred is despised; the majesty of divine worship is not only disapproved by evil men, but defiled and held up to ridicule. Hence sound doctrine is perverted and errors of all kinds spread boldly. The laws of the sacred, the rights, institutions, and discipline -- none are safe from the audacity of those speaking evil. Our Roman See is harassed violently and the bonds of unity are daily loosened and severed. The divine authority of the Church is opposed and her rights shorn off. She is subjected to human reason and with the greatest injustice exposed to the hatred of the people and reduced to vile servitude. The obedience due bishops is denied and their rights are trampled underfoot. Furthermore, academies and schools resound with new, monstrous opinions, which openly attack the Catholic faith; this horrible and nefarious war is openly and even publicly waged. Thus, by institutions and by the example of teachers, the minds of the youth are corrupted and a tremendous blow is dealt to religion and the perversion of morals is spread. So the restraints of religion are thrown off, by which alone kingdoms stand. We see the destruction of public order, the fall of principalities, and the overturning of all legitimate power approaching. Indeed this great mass of calamities had its inception in the heretical societies and sects in which all that is sacrilegious, infamous, and blasphemous has gathered as bilge water in a ship's hold, a congealed mass of all filth.
14. This shameful font of indifferentism gives rise to that absurd and erroneous proposition which claims that liberty of conscience must be maintained for everyone. It spreads ruin in sacred and civil affairs, though some repeat over and over again with the greatest impudence that some advantage accrues to religion from it. "But the death of the soul is worse than freedom of error," as Augustine was wont to say. When all restraints are removed by which men are kept on the narrow path of truth, their nature, which is already inclined to evil, propels them to ruin. Then truly "the bottomless pit" is open from which John saw smoke ascending which obscured the sun, and out of which locusts flew forth to devastate the earth. Thence comes transformation of minds, corruption of youths, contempt of sacred things and holy laws -- in other words, a pestilence more deadly to the state than any other. Experience shows, even from earliest times, that cities renowned for wealth, dominion, and glory perished as a result of this single evil, namely immoderate freedom of opinion, license of free speech, and desire for novelty.
15. Here We must include that harmful and never sufficiently denounced freedom to publish any writings whatever and disseminate them to the people, which some dare to demand and promote with so great a clamor. We are horrified to see what monstrous doctrines and prodigious errors are disseminated far and wide in countless books, pamphlets, and other writings which, though small in weight, are very great in malice. We are in tears at the abuse which proceeds from them over the face of the earth. Some are so carried away that they contentiously assert that the flock of errors arising from them is sufficiently compensated by the publication of some book which defends religion and truth. Every law condemns deliberately doing evil simply because there is some hope that good may result. Is there any sane man who would say poison ought to be distributed, sold publicly, stored, and even drunk because some antidote is available and those who use it may be snatched from death again and again?
All together now: "the death of the soul is worse than freedom of error"...
Well according to you Jesus is a false god. So in your opinion there is no right for a Christian to worship Jesus. Amusing! Your view of the natural rights of man is anti American.
I don't know a single person who has ever said that God divinely commissioned that this nation be Protestant. Nor have I ever read that in any context anywhere until your post.
But as Chrisitans, we do believe that the formation of any nation, the setting up and deposing of any country's leadership, is all under God's control. So in that respect, yes, the formation of the United States was divinely commissioned.
And before you ask, yes, I do believe God was behind Obama getting in office. But as scripture points out, sometimes God puts a particular leader in place to punish.
I'm praying that we as a nation have learned our lesson, and God will grant us a different leader in the coming election.
I love your courage for speaking the truth!
Of course, we have an example of idolatry of false liberty written on the plaque of the statue of liberty by freemasons enlightened by satan