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Independence Day: Were America’s Founders Really Deists and Atheists? with Roger Schultz – Episode 109

What happens when the government reduces education to the least common denominator?

You get an educational system that is the perfect vehicle for historical revisionism and atheism. You are taught that the Founders of our country were atheists and deists, despite the overwhelming evidence that they were firmly steeped and established in a Christian worldview.

Off The Grid Radio
Ep 109
Released: July 3, 2012

Bill:      Welcome indeed, it’s Bill Heid with Off the Grid Radio and a very special edition, 4th of July edition, and we have as our guest today Dr. Roger Schulz from Liberty University, head of the History department and I think Dean of Men. Is that correct, Dr. Schulz?

Roger:  Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Bill:      Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. So welcome.

Roger:  Thank you.

Bill:      It’s always great to have you on and as we prepare to meditate about the 4th of July and where our freedoms come from, where our political freedoms come from, it’s also good to get a dose of history to take people along the pathway in terms of where did these freedoms come from and I think in some circles people say, ‘jeez, this is in a sense that has just been established, we know American history.’

Yet, everywhere you go we have this more enlightenment version of it and Dr Schulz, I’d like to play for you, if I could, I’ll set this up. It’s a conversation between two folks that I know and two people that I would say are good fellows in some ways, my friend Joseph Ferrer and Porter Stansberry, and they’re on their show, on Porter’s show and they start talking about an article that John Higgy wrote, or Joseph wrote, about whether you can be an Atheist and be an American and Joseph gives his position, and let’s pick it up Jeramy, if we could, where Porter chimes in:

Porter:              I think first of all the historical record is very clear that the vast majority of the founding fathers thought of religion as superstition and that they believed in a clock-making God in a sense of waving out of things like Science and Physics. There’s plenty and plenty of historical writings and documents of the time by Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin and all these guys that would indicate that they did not see God in the same way that you’re describing at all; they were the founders of our country.

Also a lot of the guys that they studied, like John Locke and a lot of these people were exclusively Atheist. So I think there is a flaw, a major flaw, in your argument because the founders of our country religious in the sense that you mean whatsoever, and they specifically addressed the issue by separating, forever, church and state.

Bill:      It breaks down and gets worse from there but Dr Schulz, I think, this is AA Hodge’s revenge, right? In terms of what public education got us. What he said was kind of there’s the boomerang.

Roger:  It sure is and that’s a wonderful, wonderful section in AA Hodge’s evangelical theology when he talks about what happens when you reduce education to the lowest common denominator. You’ll have this incredible engine for the propagation of Atheism. I was just astonished by the quotations in that interview because the founders of the country were steeped in a Biblical world view, most were professing Christians, there were very few people who had identified themselves as Atheists.

In fact, I can’t think of anyone, and even those people who were not orthodox in there concession often at times disguised there heterodox ideas and it had a lively sense of provenance and so even those that had identified themselves as being Deist would have strong sense of God’s involvement in history. Even then if you look at the folks who would be the least evangelical in their sentiments, oh boy, it has hard to see them agreeing with things said in that quotation.

Bill:      But, if you went to a public school, if you went to a public college, you’re going to get stuff on Marilyn Monroe and Bono, probably by now, but you’re not going to get the essence of what the fathers believed in. Even Locke, Dr Schulz; if you look at the first treatise; the direct quotations from the Bible but to say…its just ignorance is what it is.

Roger:  It is ignorance to say that Locke was an Atheist. So from my class, I’ll just read sections out of the second treatise of civil government and say ‘does this man sound like an Atheist?’; lots of biblical quotations. Now, you can have discussions as to what was mean, how that source was appropriated but certainly the Bible is used and there is reference to divine history, divine dealings with history. Locke himself was raised in a Puritan environment.

Many of his contract theories are dependent on Puritan political notions. Now, that is not taught in schools today but in the last quarter century there has been a revival of interest about the religious foundation for American founding and for the American Revolution. Just recently I read an article that appeared a year and a half ago by Mary Cordelia which talked about John Witherspoon and how John Witherspoon, Presbyterian leader who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was appropriating Solemn League and Covenant ideas and applying them to America, and Witherspoon’s grandfather had signed the Solemn League and Covenant. Samuel Adams in 1774 on the eve of the American War of Independence recreated a Solemn League and Covenant in Massachusetts and this author was arguing that to understand Witherspoon don’t go to the enlightenment, which many people do, but rather go back to the Scottish Solemn League and Covenant.

Bill:      Oh sure. I wanted to hit Locke real quick which is really, there’s a piece of irony here in terms of Porter contesting with Joseph about this issue but I understand in 1669, Locke assisted in the drafting of the Carolina constitution under which no man could be a citizen unless he acknowledged God, was a member of a church and used no reproachful, reviling or abusive language against any religion which Porter in this interview went on to do.

Roger:  Yeah, I know.

Bill:      So he invoked someone who would have just not allowed him to be a citizen. Isn’t that interesting?

Roger:  Yeah, you’re right.

Bill:      Anyway, let’s talk a little bit about just this idea, again, about American independence as we talk about getting ready for the 4th of July, just how it was anchored in the Bible and Christian history and I think you go to the Liberty Bell for a part of it and right on the Liberty Bell you’ve got what?

Roger:  On the Liberty Bell has a quotation from Leviticus 25 and the Liberty Bell had been commissioned prior to the independence generation but there is a real affirmation of the Bible giving us our liberties and freedoms and so folks in Pennsylvania in commissioning that bell used Biblical language on there to proclaim liberty throughout all the land, read out of Leviticus.

Bill:      And then I think there’s a history that we go back to. Maybe, we can go further from the Magna Carta but let’s talk about some documents and maybe ground things at the beginning with the Magna Carta and maybe move a little through medieval history and talk about just some of the foundations of freedom and the Biblical anchoring of that.

Roger:  Sure. Well the Magna Carta is going to be a touchstone for liberties. The founders referenced it frequently and it’s a document that emphasis the limitation of Royal power and so The King couldn’t do whatever he wanted to. The King was under law. There were limits on The King’s power and The King had to recognize that. Even more interesting for me with my Scottish ancestry, was a document from a century later during the times of Robert Du Bois; the Declaration of Arbroath from 1320.

Congress has recently said the Declaration of Independence was indebted to the Declaration of Arbroath and that’s a whole ‘nother topic. But, the Declaration of Arbroath said that The King has certain rights and responsibilities to protect the people, to defend their liberties and the leaders of Scotland pledged their support to The King as long as he did that but if he stopped doing that and injured the people then they have the right to kick him out and get another King.

So there’s a strong emphasis on The King being under law in the consent of the govern and the right of resistance to a King who failed to fulfill his covenant obligations, and then coming forward the reformation reaffirmed many of those things. During the time of the reformation many Protestants were persecuted because they followed God. They might be subjected to death, seizure of property, ill-treatment and beatings and so Protestants began to think through Biblical principles of governments and Biblical principles of resistance and the American founders were very familiar with that.

There’s a wonderful essay by John Adams called ‘A Dissertation on Canon and Feudal Law’ and he talks about how the reformation promoted liberty and that was strong with the reformers. It was particularly strong with the Puritans who came to the new world and Adams is proud of them because those were his forbearers.

But he talked about the principle of liberty that you found in Protestantism and that you found especially in Puritanism and reformed Christians. Edmond Burke, in England in a famous speech in 1775 for reconciliation with the colonies, talked about that principle of freedom in those Puritan colonists and he said that ‘in the colonies where people have embraced the reform state, they are particularly keen about ideas of liberty.’

So there’s a religious foundation for Christian republicanism. There was a Biblical Christian world view undergirding the views of government and these things coming out of the reformation, out of that medieval age, emphasized covenants, the important of covenanting and establishing written documents or constitutions, rights for the people that were God ordained that the magistrate could not take away, limitations on Royal or executive power as The King was not absolute.

The King couldn’t do whatever he wanted; The King’s power was prescribed and proscribed and limited; consent of the governed; legitimacy of the resistance; the importance of lesser magistrates and any action of resistance and, ultimately, that God ordains and establishes the governments for his ends according to his word and to his law.

Bill:      In this business of rule of law which Rutherford wrote about later really does find itself taking form then during the Middle Ages.

Roger:  Absolutely, and you’ll find it in the Middle Ages. It comes to fruition during the reformation and it’s put in a real systematic form by Americans during the years leading up to the American Independence.

There’s a wonderful book, that you might be familiar with, by Douglas Kelly called ‘The Emergence of Liberty in the Modern World’ and Kelly argues that our ideas of liberty and constitutionalism really came to fruition in reformed countries and he looks at Geneva; he looks at the French Huguenot’s in France; he talks about the English Puritans and the Scottish Presbyterians and then he finally comes to the United States to show how all of those ideas about republicanism consistent with the teaching of scripture are seen during the independence generation.

Bill:      I do have a copy of this book; it’s been a little white. What does Kelly say about Knox’s trying to resist forces that he’s describing as evil or tyrannical? How does Knox ground the resistance then?

Roger:  He has a major emphasis on Knox and the rights of resistance against an ungodly ruler and that becomes important in Scottish history not only because of Knox but because of George the Cannon and then because of things that happen in the late 16th and early 17th century with the Scots from the time of their dealings with Mary Queen of Scots until the time of the Solemn League and Covenant.

He spends a good bit of time on that and columnists were familiar with that history and there was a wonderful sermon done by a man named Case right at the tail end of the American Revolution and he describes the writers that influenced Americans and he mentioned Samuel Rutherford with Lex, Rex.

He mentions one of the famous covenential writers James Stewart. He mentions George the Cannon and there’s a long discussion of Cannon’s work on the rights of the Crown in Scotland and it’s interesting that, that book which was 200 years old at the time of the American War of Independence was published in the colonies just prior to independence and I suspect that Cannon’s arguments resonated with the colonists as it showed the limits of what a King could do and then the rights of the people to resist a King that had unconstitutionally and unlawfully exceeded his authorities.

Bill:      Also, you look at the English Civil War with Cromwell and Cromwell is grounding his position in the fact that there’s a law that’s transcendent and this is where I think my friend Porter might have some difficulty because, we’re tipping and going a little bit into the philosophical route, but if you were to see the universe as closed it would be hard to make Cromwell’s argument in a closed universe but Cromwell saw a transcendent universe.

God passing these laws that are universal and variant and those laws were not up for negotiation for Cromwell and even a King could not say, ‘hey, I’m going to calls them as I sees them’ or make up some arbitrary law. But, The King himself had to be under those laws. So in Cromwell’s case, I know very little about this other than I’ve always enjoyed watching the famous movie and I think it’s a great movie but what was Cromwell reading in your opinion? What was Cromwell thinking? How did he come to those conclusions?

Roger:  I’m not sure about all of the influences on Cromwell. I know more about the influences on that resistance generation during the time of the Civil War and there was a great concern about The King exceeding his powers. Charles I becoming a tyrant, involved in treason, turning his back on the things he had pledged to do and so the starting with the Scots leading to parliamentary resistance there was a united concern that The King had violated his oath, had exceeded his power and then could be resisted.

Americans were keenly aware of that and so when Presbyterians in Virginia chartered a college, they established Hampden-Sydney. A name for two English patriots of the 1600’s who had resisted the Stewart absolutism and Stewart oppression.

So they’re interested in starting a Christian college but they are very much geared toward the idea of liberty and at the same time Presbyterians in Virginia established another college, now Washington and Lee but the initial name was Liberty Hall because of its emphasis on liberty. Jonathan May-Hughes, famous sermon up in Massachusetts on rights of resistance was given one hundred years after the execution of Charles I reminding people of those principles of rights of resistance against a tyrannical King.

Bill:      I’m curious, I was thinking of it as you said this. Here we’re coming up to 4th of July and when I was young and I think you and I are probably in a similar generation, I’m 54. So when I was young my dad was always keen to make me respect the flag. So take your hat off when the flag goes by and all of that stuff and that’s how I grew up in a little rural town in the middle of America and corn-fed and all of that but I’m wondering if the British flag went by at a time when the patriots were having these thoughts about, ‘wait a second, these folks are really trying to take our rights away’.

I know Sam Adams probably wouldn’t have taken his hat off when the flag went by, but what do you think was in their minds? We’re jumping a little bit from thought to thought but what do you think Sam Adams would have thought on a 4th of July, they don’t have a 4th of July but whatever British festival or something they might have? Could you see him standing there as the parade goes by and the English flag is flying, so what do you think they’re feeling?

Roger:  Well that’s an excellent question and even more directly, at what point did they cease to seal allegiance to The King and allegiance to the flag as they decided they needed to be separate and if you look at the proclamations of the Continental Congress you can see a timeline for that happening. So in 1775, in July 1775 there’s a famous Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking up Arms and Americans in the Continental Congress say that they have to defend themselves so they’re raising armies, they’re getting ready to fight, they’re willing to resist but they’re ultimate goal is restoration of relations.

They believe that they have a right to defend themselves. They make appeal to the impartial judge of the universe. They cast themselves on God and his mercy but their goal is reconciliation once England realizes what’s been happening and comes to her senses. Now, within a year that changes and so in July 1776, Americans in the Continental Congress proclaim their independence but in making that independence proclamation they list all of the things that The King has done to disqualify himself.

So there’s almost a covenantal language, they march through and show all of the usurpations and abuses to show that The King has disqualified himself from being the rightful sovereign over the Americans and so at some point between July 1775 to July 1776 Americans collectively, if you will, would cease to put their hand on their heart or take their hat off their heads or swear a fealty to The King of Britain, and if you go through the history you can see stages where Americans become increasingly dissatisfied and it might be because of unjust taxation, unconstitutional taxation; it might be military rule for soldiers that are bought in to apply Marshall Law to places that are not deserving of it; it might be the threat of removing religious liberties but in colony after colony you can see proclamations, assertions of rights, concerns about the British but it’s happening all over the place during that year as folks come to a point, or at least a majority of people represented in the Continental Congress come to that point and then in state after state after state come to the point of proclaiming independence.

Bill:      It was just the Declaration of the Cause and Necessity of Taking up Arms?

Roger:  That’s correct. That’s the year before the Declaration of Independence.

Bill:      Was it Patrick Henry? Was he the one that delivered the speech that led to that?

Roger:  Patrick Henry is an excellent example. He has a famous speech, it’s a couple of months before the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity but Henry captures the thinking of patriotic Americans and it is a famous speech and it’s one that is anchored in Biblical imagery and language but Henry clearly sees the direction of British tyranny and urges people to prepare for the future.

Bill:      So then some time goes on and then we’re getting ready to celebrate the 4th of July, the Declaration of Independence. Let’s try to break that down and talk about Jefferson, was he originally the Secretary of the Committee that was set up to draft this piece?

Roger:  That’s correct and there’s a dispute story on how that took place. John Adams had a reputation for being an excellent writer as well but Adams, according to the story, urges Jefferson to do it because he said, ‘you’re a Virginian and you’re much more respected.’ Adams had a reputation of being a little cranky sometimes; ‘you’re better liked, you’re Virginian plus you write so much better’. Now, we don’t know if that story is true or not but Jefferson has the lion share of the task.

The committee adjusts things and Congress adjusts things but the bulk of the writing was Jefferson’s and Jefferson had worked with John Dickinson on the proclamation or declaration of 1775 as well. It is a proclamation that has a great deal of religious language and that’s the thing that surprises people when they’re familiar up with Jefferson’s reputation of being an infidel. It’s couched in religious language.

There was a book written about 20 years ago descending the declaration which talked about all the clauses in the declaration which had religious antecedents and if you read it there’s a great deal that refers back to Blackstone and older Christian culture and history.

Things that would be familiar to the people of that day but would be less familiar to people nowadays and the problem is people keep editing it or changing it and not too long ago, maybe about a year ago, President Obama quoted the declaration to read, “we hold these truths to be self-evident. That all men are created equal. That they are endowed with certain unalienable rights” and he dropped three important words and those words are: “they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights among these life liberties in the pursuit of happiness.”

There is a cardinal tenant in the Declaration of Independence that our rights come from God. We are endowed by our creator with these rights and I suspect whether Obama did that intentionally or not, I suspect that his omission of those words “by their creator” are things that are done all the time by all kinds of educators because it’s an inconvenient truth for them but that’s central to our declaration and our beliefs as Christians and Americans that there are self-evident truths and that our rights come from our creator.

Bill:      Even as you have said previously, the old crank himself, Thomas Payne, would disagree with President Obama. I mean, he was bold enough to say “where’s The King of America?”

Roger:  “Where’s The King of America? He reigns above.” I’d love to have students read Thomas Payne because Payne has a reputation and it’s a reputation of being an infidel and I think President Roosevelt called him a “filthy, little Atheist”, and that reputation comes later in the 1790’s. But, boy if you read Common Sense it sounds like an evangelical track. Now, if you read it carefully you realize that Payne’s ideas aren’t all that orthodox.

John Witherspoon, for instance, reading it he notes things that he sees are a rye. But, boy on first face he’s quoting from the Bible. He quotes extensively from first Samuel 8; he says, “here the almighty has entered his protest against Monarchy.” He quotes from Judges 6; he says, “these parts of scriptures are unequivocal.” There can be no dispute as to what they mean.

There’s constant references to the Bible and a Biblical system of government, and then he even goes onto this famous passage and says “just to make sure that we’re not deficient and any obligation lets proclaim a day and we’ll bring out a Bible and we’ll put a crown on the law of God so everybody will know in America the law is King” and I can’t imagine liberals and infidels today who see Payne as the representative American being very enthusiastic about that. I’m all for it. Let’s bring out a crown and put it on the word of God. Payne’s language sounds very religious and Biblical and I suspect he knew the temper of the people. He understood American people and understood this was a kind of appeal that would resonate with them.

Bill:      I’m being playful here but would it be against the law for someone to read Payne in a public high school and say, “where’s The King? He reigns from above”? Would that be against the law to do that?

Roger:  It might be if you read it too enthusiastically.

Bill:      Yeah, that’s a great point. You would better tone it down a little bit.

Roger:  I wonder if a teacher in a public school would get in trouble for reading the Declaration of Independence or the Declaration of the Causes of Necessity. There’s so much religious terminology and religious language, and this is Jefferson and Dickinson writing the Declaration of the Causes of Necessity. They make the statement and it’s the same one that Payne does in Common Sense about God’s provenance.

They say, “we are convinced that God would not allow us to come into this conflict until we were able to defend ourselves.” Now there’s an affirmation of God’s provenance that if a school teacher in a public school were to say it as their own opinion they would get in trouble. They’d say, “the American Revolution happened when it did because God wouldn’t let it happen until we were strong enough to protect ourselves.” Well the superintendent or the principal would want to talk to you but you could read it right off the documents of the Continental Congress because that was the conviction of the American founders.

Bill:      It was, and even Porter Stansberry was saying well these guys in the loosest sense were Deist and here we go again. Even Franklin and Jefferson, who toed a similar line; maybe they weren’t consistent one way or the other called on that provenance, did they not?

Roger:  All of them. A strong sense of provenance. Franklin’s impassioned plea at the Constitutional Convention describes God’s provenance. “A sparrow cannot fall without His notice. How can a nation rise without His assistance” and Franklin, who was not orthodox, always disguised whatever goofy ideas he had and even with the charge of Deism, Franklin is so coy about it. In his autobiography, he describes his teenage speculations and he says ‘I flirted with Deism but I didn’t think those ideas were very useful and I abandoned them.’

So it’s not clear if he says they’re untrue just that they weren’t very useful. Then he says that he knew some other friends, boyhood friends, who were committed to Deism but these guys were such moral retches that they don’t become good examples of Deism at all but rather an example of human depravity left unchecked and his fear was that if there isn’t some concern for the divine, for proper morality and civic propriety, civilization would just fall apart. So Franklin, despite what he may have believed about the Trinity, or the deeds of Christ or the atoning works of Christ, strongly believed in God, strongly believed in provenance and was concerned about the impact of infidelity in Atheism or Deism on society.

Bill:      And Jefferson the same?

Roger:  Absolutely the same and this does not fit with the modern reconstruction of Jefferson. There’s a wonderful book by Daniel Dreisbach on Jefferson’s Wall of Separation and Dreisbach does all the research and he uncovered a Thanksgiving proclamation from Thomas Jefferson in 1779 and the language here is so profound.

Now, Jefferson did not believe it was the role of the national government or federal government to issue proclamations but as governor he could do that, and so this is some of the language from that Thanksgiving proclamation in 1779: “It comes to us humbly to approach the throne of God with gratitude and praise and above all that he has defused the glorious light of the gospel where through the merits of our gracious redeemer we may become the heirs of his eternal glory.” Now, when Jefferson talks about “the merits of our gracious redeemer”, that is Christ, and how through that gospel we become “the heirs of eternal glory” it makes my heart go pitter pat.

Bill:      That is a pitter pat. That’s not a clockmaker theory.

Roger:  That’s not a clockmaker guy. I wish every minister in America was as crystal clear on that theological point as Jefferson was in 1779. That we are “the heirs of eternal glory” because of this gospel about “the merits of our gracious redeemer”. Then Jefferson asks for prayer. Of course, no Deist would ever ask for prayer for God’s intrusion into history but he asked for prayer that God would go forth with our host and crown our arms with victory and he would grant to his church “the counter fold of fusions of divine grace and poor out his holy spirit on all ministers of the gospel and spread the light of Christian knowledge throughout the remotest corners of the Earth.”

Now when he says that it reminds me of a little Axe 1:8 about the gospel going to the remotest ends of the Earth but that’s what Jefferson asks for prayer for. Not only American success with arms but also for “God’s blessing on the church and the fulfillment of the great commission to the remotest corners of the ends by the holy spirit being poured out on the ministers of the gospel.” That’s makes my heart go pitter pat as well.

I wish every American politician would urge people to pray that prayer today, and then Jefferson concludes this way, “He, God, would in mercy look down upon us, pardon all our sins and receive us into his favor and finally that He would establish the independence of these United States upon the basis of religion and virtue.” There’s a twofold prayer: one for individual salvation.

That God’s mercy would pardon all of our sins and then secondly there’s a prayer for national blessing or prosperity upon the basis of religion and virtue. There’s a really interesting story about this because Jefferson went to France and he got acquainted with some French ideas and that may have encouraged some other speculative thoughts of his from the 1780’s and 1790’s but as President he always tried to present himself as a Christian magistrate within the limits of the constitution.

So he didn’t think the federal government should do certain things. There’s a story told about Jefferson going to church and church services were held in federal office buildings, in national buildings in Washington and this minister saw him and asked why he, Jefferson, with such a reputation for infidelity was going to church and Jefferson said, “no nation has ever yet existed or been governed without religion nor can be. The Christian religion is the best religion that has ever been given to man and I, as Chief Magistrate, am bound to give it a sanction of my example.” Jefferson’s attitude there may not be evangelical in emphasizing the importance of salvation through faith and Christ.

He’s not addressing that but it does emphasize the critical importance of Christianity for a nation to give it a foundation of religion and virtue. It’s the same thing that Washington emphasizes in his farewell address. So it’s interesting that the most recent scholarship on Jefferson really emphasizes that this religious commitment or moral component.

There was an article published by Peter Enough, one of the great Jefferson scholars who teaches at the University of Virginia on Thomas Jefferson and Deism and it was published a year ago by the Gilder Lehrman Foundation in a journal called History Now and Enough really discounts the idea of Deism and Jefferson but he notes that Jefferson increasingly with age fashions himself as a Christian albeit a primitive Christians who’s just following the simple teachings of Jesus and doesn’t like doctoring and theology and so forth but increasingly convinced that Christianity was absolutely vital to the success of the United States, and Enough argues that Jefferson is really following the spirit of The Second Awakening which really argues for the need for Christian vitality for the country to be successful.

Bill:      Here’s an idea for somebody, tell me what you think of this idea Dr Schulz. I see the teapartyhighschool.com is available and here’s what you do. You’re a bit of a rebel rouser. You can start some sort of organization that is designed to create rebel rouser in public schools and what you do is you get this stuff by Jefferson and by Franklin and by Payne and whoever else you want, founding documents, and you just print these out. Cut and paste these out and just paste them up around your school like in places like restrooms and stuff. It’s the Tea Party; you would be in the true sense, right? You’d be a real rebel rouser.

Roger:  Sure. Actually, at Virginia schools the proclamation by Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson in 1779 should be fair gain. It’s an official Virginia document.

Bill:      But you’ll probably get in trouble in Virginia.

Roger:  You probably would.

Bill:      Doing something that helped find Virginia and maintain Virginia as part of Virginia’s history you would probably get thrown out. Would that be a good court case for some lawyer to take on?

Roger:  What has happened is the discourse in secular education has all been about the enlightenment and the received notion is that the enlightenment dominated the thinking of the American founders and that’s just not true or at least it’s not very nuanced and historians that deal with this find different kinds of enlightenment. Radical enlightenment; a didactic enlightenment; a radical enlightenment; a revolutionary enlightenment and so with those categories people have looked at some of the quotations.

Now, when we think of the enlightenment we typically think of the Skeptical Enlightenment in France of Voltaire and so forth. The modern enlightenment thinkers were not hostile to Christianity and indeed much of what they said was sympathetic to Christianity. Americans were little influenced by the skeptical enlightenment or the radical enlightenment and often at times if they’re quoting from enlightenment figures they’re quoting from people who would be very sympathetic to Christianity or whose writings would not be at odds with Christianity.

The Scottish enlightenment, for instance, was influential in America but it didn’t have, for the most part, a very radical or skeptical nature. In fact, often at times those enlightenment thinkers would be used to combat skeptical thinkers. Donald Lutz did a comprehensive study of all American quotations from 1760 to 1805. About a half century quotations covering the independence generation to see what people were quoting from.

By far and away the leading book people quoted from was the Bible. One third of all quotations came from the Bible and pamphlet literature in that generation. From the modern enlightenment 16 per cent; from the radical enlightenment 6 per cent; whiggish authors, these would be republicanisms 18 per cent; another 10 per cent from common law; another 10 per cent from a classical examples, but a really small representation of quotes from the radical enlightenment by far and away the leading source of quotations was from the Bible and the book that was quoted from most frequently was the Book of Deuteronomy which had a great deal of information about the nature of civil government, the nature of Kings, how people should govern themselves.

Bill:      I think John Eidsmoe has done a nice work in his book on Christianity and the Constitution; laying that out. What’s the name of Lutz’s book?

Roger:  He has a number of books out but his book on Sources of American Constitutionalism is one of those sources and I sort quotes from his book and Christianity and the Constitution.

Bill:      Okay. So as we have a little bit of time left, let’s talk a little bit about this accusation that the Brits had against the colonies running off with the Presbyterians parson and so forth. Talk a little bit about the roots of that belief system again and what was the nature of beliefs and who did they think; we were talking about this parade earlier. Let’s go on the other side of the Atlantic, who do these guys think the enemy is? The King’s got his people around him, his inner circle, and they’re talking about who is our enemy? What’s the nature of this crisis? What’s the foundational issues? Who do they see really as being the guys and the beliefs that they really had to deal with?

Roger:  In 1778, the British thought that the chief enemy, the chief culprit, was John Witherspoon. In 1778, the British sent over a peace commission. It was a commission looking to resolve disputes and the confidential correspondents coming back said, ‘look, I think we can still win America. We have to tend with a small percentage against us. At their head is John Witherspoon and Adams and Franklin and a few other more depraved individuals who are a raid against us but Witherspoon is the culprit’.

Back in England, the saying was America has run off with a Presbyterian parson because it’s really intriguing because at the time people saw Witherspoon, the British saw Witherspoon, as being so critical. ‘He’s fazed away, he has become, some have argued, the forgotten father.’ Witherspoon is a remarkable man. I mentioned the article that came out a year and a half ago in the William and Mary Cordelia that tried to revive Witherspoon’s reputation. Witherspoon is an interesting transatlantic personality.

He had been a leading minister in Scotland. He was an conservative or evangelical opposed to liberal theology and opposed to ecclesiastical machinery and they persuaded Witherspoon to come to America to become President of the College of New Jersey, what is now Princeton, and he was a leading minister, he was a leading educator, he was very involved with the Continental Congress and then with the US Congress.

He sat on critical committees. He was the finder of the Declaration of Independence. He was a leading patriot. He organized the first Presbyterian general assembly. He was a leader in terms of philosophical development in the United States. He’s a remarkable man, and when you look at the list of his graduates his record is unparalleled. He trained a President of the United States, that’s Madison. Madison even stayed at Princeton for special graduate studies with Witherspoon.

Sometimes they say that Madison is the father of the constitution and that would make Witherspoon grandfather of the constitution but he trained a Vice-President of the United States. The list is unsurpassed. 49 US representatives were students, 28 US senators, 3 Supreme Court Justices, a Secretary of State, two Attorney Generals, diplomats. 11 per cent of his graduates became college presidents in eight different American states.

Absolutely mindboggling the impact that he had and so here is a new light or an evangelical Presbyterian minister who becomes one of the leading statesmen and patriots to this day. The story is told, we’re not sure exactly how true it is, but Witherspoon gave one of the key speeches of four independence. He had ridden into Philadelphia. He had came in after a nights ride, mud-spattered and came in to say not only were the colonies right for independence they were positively rotten for want of it. According to some stories it helped turn the tide of the debate.

We do know that he was an early advocate for independence and he authored a wonderful sermon, the most famous sermon of the revolutionary generation called The Dominion of Provenance Over the Passion of Men and so he has an exposition from one of the songs about The Dominion of Provenance Over the Wrath of Men and then he has an evangelistic appeal, and he says, ‘the first thing I want to say from this passage is to consider the states of your souls because we’re fighting for temporal liberties and freedoms here. We’re fighting for national blessing, personal blessing, temporal blessing but all of that means nothing compared to eternity and if you have spent your time fighting for your Earthly rights and then you forget about your heavenly life to come you’re the biggest fool there is. The scripture urges us to plea to Christ and accept him for the salvation of our souls and for an eternal reward.’

So there’s this dramatic evangelistic appeal and I think that’s worth noting because sometimes Witherspoon’s critics say ‘he becomes too political, he’s so interested in politics he forgets about the gospel.’

Anybody who says that has not read Witherspoon’s sermons because they all have that evangelical focus, that gospel focus, on the most important thing in life is committing oneself to Christ for the forgiveness of sins and for our eternal inheritance, and then having said that then he urges independence and he describes the things the British have done, he describes how Americans should respond, he emphasizes Americans being a virtuous people securing God’s assistance by faithfully following him and then having a united response.

If folks are thinking about July 4th they could do worse than going online and looking up Witherspoon’s Dominion of Provenance and especially to look up the full version because sometimes online versions edit what was said or bridge it. If you go to the liberty funds website you can find the whole sermon and you get a real sense of Witherspoon’s commitments; his Biblical commitments with the restitutions of the passage; his evangelical commitments with his urging of people to embrace Christ and then his political or patriotic commitments by urging people to consider independence.

Bill:      The other thing that I like about this guy and I think, again, our friend Porter would appreciate, and maybe I’m going out on a limb. I know you as a scholar you have to be a little bit more cautious than someone be bombastic as myself but would there be gold, the necessity for gold as money in our constitution without Witherspoon?

Roger:  Witherspoon was a passionate advocate for real money, for hard money. Many people don’t realize the country during the revolution was an economic basket case. So there were some experimentations with the price controls and that didn’t work. There was a terrible monetary crisis with the US Continental which became terribly devalued.

There was what we would call hyperinflation because the US Continental became worth one fortieth of its face value, its issue value within a few years and people who had taken American bonds or who had accepted the Continentals in payments were the ones who were most hurt or most likely to be hurt and Witherspoon was a passionate advocate of a real money or hard money system.

In fact, an essay that he did, an essay on money, was probably the work of his that stayed in print the longest. It was reprinted well into the 1800’s. It’s got a very frank, straightforward explanation of the problems with paper money and the importance of having real money. My guess is that Witherspoon would be horrified to see some of the things that we observe with the fed.

Bill:      He would in fact be horrified as would the other founders for the reasons, not because of the pragmatic reasons, as we’ve been discussing but because of the foundational reasons. The violation of just what can be done and what can’t be done.

So in other words, I think what you get is a lot of people would argue all these instantiations Dr Schulz but, these men had foundational principles by which they operated which allowed them to explain some of the particulars that they didn’t like. In our culture I guess I see that lacking. So if you watch a news show, to me, it’s just endless discussion on instantiations and particulars without any grounding and fundamental principles.

Roger:  Oh, I think you’re right and Franklin’s a good example of that and I’ve already mentioned that Franklin wasn’t an evangelical in the sense that he trusted Christ for his salvation but he was raised in Puritan Massachusetts.

He had this Biblical world and life view. I think one of the reasons his writings were so successful is they resonated so well with what Americans had grown up with and experienced and Franklin is just a model of plain, straightforward, some call him a secular Puritan, Puritan, Biblical views of government and wealth. So his almanac has these principles.

The Way to Wealth is a famous Franklin writing emphasizing a prosper based system of wealth and vocation and service. Franklin was horrified with what was happening with the monetary system. In one of the states they made paper money legal tender and so everybody who was a debtor took the inflated currency to pay off their debts. There’s a quotation that is at least attributed to Franklin where he said’ “it created a system unprecedented in the history of mankind where debtors where pursuing there creditors and paying them off without mercy.”

Typically, it’s the other way around where creditors are pursuing the debtors and forcing them mercilessly to pay but in this radically different inflationary system it’s the debtors who have a chance to pay off their creditors and punish them.

Bill:      There you go exactly and as we’re running out of time, if you want to expose your children to some of the stuff that we’ve been talking to I would highly recommend Liberty University. You go and get a chance to hear some of this first hand. Liberty, as Dr Schulz would tell you, was started by Jerry Falwell but really who had a big influence, as we close here, talk about Schaeffer, just briefly, and his influence on Falwell. I think people need to know what really was going on in the minds of Dr Falwell.

Roger:  Falwell was much influenced by Francis Schaeffer and Falwell said that he always had a light ministry in mind, that’s an evangelical ministry. But, Schaeffer taught him salt ministry; how to be salt to a culture. Just last week I talked with a man who was there when Falwell flew over to meet with Francis Schaeffer for the first time and he talked about that meeting.

It was pretty exciting to listen to someone who was there to talk about that first meeting of Falwell and Schaeffer. Schaeffer spoke at Thomas Road a number of times but spoke there just before his death and if you ever have a death to watch that sermon it is a powerful sermon where Schaeffer, who is dying, urges people to be faithful to the scriptures but to be faithful to King Jesus and it’ll bring a tear to your eye.

But Jerry Falwell’s vision on how to bring success to America was influenced by Schaeffer who was well aware of American history and the importance of national revitalization, and I would add this that there are many Christian countries like the United Sates and many of them do a fine work but increasingly it’s hard to find Christian schools or Christian professors who are committed to the same things that the founders were committed; who see a positive role for Christianity in American history and in the west; who are committed to ideas of Biblical government and Christian republicanism; who are committed to Biblical ideals of a monetary policy; who affirm the market approaches that we’ve been blessed with in the United States. Liberty University does a wonderful job continuing Dr Falwell’s vision of education.

Bill:      My son went to Liberty Law School and got a great legal education there as well and all of the matters that we’ve been discussing today and obviously more. Dr Schulz I want to thank you for spending time. I know that your time is valuable and it’s been a great interview and happy 4th of July or covenantal law suit day or whatever we’d like to call it to you. So thank you again for your time.

Roger:  It’s been great to be with you.

 

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