A Balanced Evangelical View of America’s Founding

It would be problematic to deny the deep Christian (or at least theistic) influence on the Founders’ intellectual world.

While not every Founding Father was a Bible believer, they all lived in a Bible-suffused milieu. And while faith was hardly their only inspiration, Christian principles heavily informed the Founders’ beliefs in equality, liberty, and the nature of the American republic.

 

I recently reviewed David Aikman’s excellent book One Nation Without God? for Christianity Today. As I note in the review, Aikman’s book takes a balanced view of America’s Christian heritage:

In the chapter on history (the longest section of the book), Aikman reviews modern Christian providentialist literature, led by books such as Peter Marshall and David Manuel’s The Light and the Glory, that portrays the American founding as uniquely directed by God. He contrasts this approach with that of academic Christian historians such as [Mark] Noll and [George] Marsden (my doctoral adviser), who criticized the providentialist approach in their book The Search for Christian America (co-written with another accomplished historian, Nathan Hatch). Aikman seems satisfied neither with the providentialists nor their academic critics. He chides Noll and Marsden for seizing on moral failings of the colonial and Revolutionary Founders as evidence that America never was a “properly” Christian nation. In Aikman’s view, the Puritans and Patriot Founders had many faults—as do we all—but these do not fundamentally detract from their accomplishments and the Christian quality of their efforts…

Aikman prefers to sketch the religious character of the colonial, Revolutionary, and early national periods, letting readers see the good and the bad, the religious and the worldly, and decide for themselves whether it all amounted to a “Christian nation”… Aikman maintains that, despite the quote-bending contortions of popular Christian writers, key figures such as Franklin and Jefferson were Deists, not Christians. Read More

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