On Jefferson and Religion

Jefferson lived in an environment that was strongly pro-Christian. There were many revivals going on around the time of Jefferson. It was in the air he breathed in Virginia.

Only God knows the ultimate state of Jefferson’s personal soul. But the key point is that Thomas Jefferson would not have agreed with the ACLU’s anti-Christian backlash against Christian expression in the public arena.

Jefferson is a man of contradictions. And it stretches all imagination to think of him as being in line with historic Christianity, certainly by the end of his life. But the real question is: Are the policies of today, that are essentially fashioned in his name, in line with what he himself would agree to?

Jefferson did not view himself as an atheist; but he rather saw himself as one trying to save Christianity, as he understood it, from centuries of corruptions.

Controversy surrounding the faith of Thomas Jefferson can be seen in what happened in 2012, when the popular David Barton of WallBuilders wrote The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson for a major Christian publisher.

Two teachers at Grove City College, a conservative Christian institution, Warren Throckmorton (a psychology professor) and Michael Coulter (a history professor) wrote a book, Getting Jefferson Right, critiquing Barton’s book and much of Barton’s teaching in general. I read their book very carefully.

The whole controversy surrounding Barton’s book and his critics well illustrates that this subject is potentially a minefield. It also illustrates that this is an important topic. Ideas have consequences, and they have implications.

As to David Barton, I feel that he has forgotten more American history than 98% of us ever learned. I have personally seen a portion of his massive collection outside of Forth Worth, Texas of tends of thousands of old books and newspaper articles from the founding era, or reprints of the same. I interviewed David recently for my radio show about his book and the controversy and his republishing of the book in a corrected version. He himself has admitted that he should have been more careful in how we worded certain things but he is working in good faith to make it right.

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