***11/4/14- Jerry Newcombe posted his weekly column on Jefferson: “Was Jefferson Really a Doubting Thomas?” This was distributed in Jerry’s usual sources: wnd.com, christianpost.com, and townhall.com.
Misreading Jefferson on Church and State
Jerry Newcombe | Nov 06, 2014
Unless you’ve been living in a cave lately, you might have noticed there seems to be an ongoing onslaught against our Judeo-Christian traditions and beliefs. It’s happening on virtually every front in our culture—in schools, in the media and movies, in the public arena.
Many elitists today interpret the First Amendment in such a way as to turn it into a “search and destroy mission for any sneaky vestiges of religion left in the public square,” as one Christian law professor put it. That’s what separation of church and state means nowadays.
Virtually all of this is done, consciously or unconsciously, in the name of Thomas Jefferson. After all, it was he who gave us the phrase “separation of church and state.” But what he meant by the phrase and what the ACLU and their allies mean are two different things.
First of all, Jefferson wasn’t even in the country when the founders wrote the Constitution. He was in France, serving as our ambassador. Nor was Jefferson directly involved in the crafting of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
In 1947, the Supreme Court took an obscure letter of Jefferson’s, written to the Baptists of Danbury, CT, in which he quoted the First Amendment and said that it built “a wall of separation between church and state.”
Prior to that 1947 decision, there were few cases regarding the establishment clause. After it, it was as if the floodgates were opened up—eventually washing away thinks like school prayer and Bible-reading (which had gone on for centuries, beginning in the colonies), and the posting of the Ten Commandments in public. And now it never stops.
Todd Starnes of Fox News documents the current war against all things Christian in the public arena is his new book, God Less America.
I interviewed Todd recently on our television program and mentioned how the idea of “God less America” is an oxymoron, since our national birth certificate, the Declaration of Independence (written by Jefferson, of course), says that our rights are come from the Creator.
Todd responded, “…the atheist and the secularist, they really truly want God to be removed from the public marketplace of ideas…” And what happens if they are successful?
Todd says, consider “the nations throughout history, where man has been in charge [and removed those God-given rights]…those become dictatorships, those become [tyrannies]…”
The irony of this anti-God crusade is that it is done in the name of Jefferson. Why is that ironic? Everybody knows he was an atheist or closet unbeliever, right? Well, not so fast.
I just co-wrote a book on Jefferson and his faith with Dr. Mark Beliles, who lives in and pastors a church in Charlottesville, not far from Monticello. Dr. Beliles has been researching our third president for years and has uncovered some important things that are not well known.
Together we have produced the book, Doubting Thomas? The Religious Life and Legacy of Thomas Jefferson.The book deals with five distinct religious phases in Jefferson’s life.
In his most believing phase, Thomas Jefferson helped start a church in 1777 (the Calvinistical Reformed Church of Charlottesville) with the Rev. Charles Clay, an evangelical, as the minister. Jefferson even wrote the church’s founding document with the stated desire for “Gospel knowledge.” He also donated more money than any other layman for that church. This was a year after he wrote the Declaration and the same year as the VA Statute for Religious Freedom.
The book contains two sermons of Rev. Clay—never before in print. They are evangelical (and evangelistic), and Jefferson helped support this man’s ministry.
Later, Thomas Jefferson privately shared with people growing doubts (and then unbelief) about the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus, the trustworthiness of the entire Bible. But to take the Thomas Jefferson of 1813 (who denied the Trinity) and impose that on his writings of 1776 and 1777 (when he helped create a local orthodox church) is anachronistic—and bad history. But that’s what is done today.
Thus, Thomas Jefferson was not a lifelong skeptic. Secondly, he did not believe in the separation of God and state. Even the above-mentioned letter from which we get the phrase “separation of church and state” ends with President Jefferson appealing to the Baptists to pray for him and promising he’ll pray for them—to God. If the ACLU and their minions were correct, the very source of “the separation of church and state” violates “the separation of church and state”!
It boils down to interpretation. Jefferson and the other founders did not want a national denomination. That is clear. But that doesn’t mean they did not want godly influence to hold some sway in government. Far from it. They cherished the influence of “religion and morality.”
When Jefferson was president, he attended Christian worship services regularly on Sunday mornings. Where? In the U.S. Capitol building. But “What about the separation of church and state?,” someone might ask. Again, Jefferson didn’t believe in the separation of God and state.
One view he never abandoned was the importance of our rights as God-given. Etched in stone at his Memorial are these words: “Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?” The answer is No. In short, the Thomas Jefferson of the ACLU is an historical fiction. Doubting Thomas seeks to set the record straight.
***12/14/14-We were guests of Janet Parshall’s nationally syndicated program on the Moody Radio Network.
Hour 1 | Hour 2
Dr. Linda Mintle, Dr. Mark Beliles, Dr. Jerry Newcombe
Air Date December 16, 2014
Hour 2 – Doubting Thomas?
Is banning Christmas Nativity Scenes in public places what Thomas Jefferson had in mind when he proposed the First Amendment? What did he believe about the relationship between the Church and the State? Authors Mark Belisles and Jerry Newcombe will reveal new Information, little known facts, and a fresh evaluation of the faith of Thomas Jefferson.
Dr. Mark Beliles
Dr. Mark Beliles is an established author and editor. His scholarly books include The Selected Religious Letters and Papers of Thomas Jefferson, and Playful in His Closet: The Complete Religious History of Thomas Jefferson, and his Ph.D. dissertation is Free As the Air: Churches and Politics in Jefferson’s Virginia. Residing in Charlottesville, Thomas Jefferson’s hometown, Beliles founded the Providence Foundation in 1983 and has since then held many scholarly symposiums about Jefferson and religion at the University of Virginia. He served a dozen years as the Chairman of the Historic Resources Committee for the city of Charlottesville. Beliles has also worked 36 years as a pastor, speaking in many cities across America as well as countries over the globe.
Visit the Doubting Thomas website for more information.
Dr. Jerry Newcombe
Dr. Jerry Newcombe serves as the co-host and a spokesperson for Truth that Transforms, the television outreach of the late Dr. D. James Kennedy. Jerry produces a weekly column for the ministry and often produces many TV segments. He is the author or co-author of twenty-four books, including bestsellers, George Washington’s Sacred Fire and What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? He has appeared on numerous talk shows as a guest and also hosts a weekly talk radio program on GraceFM.
Visit Jerry’s site for more information.
Janet Parshall has been broadcasting from the nation’s capital for over two decades. Her passion is to ‘equip the saints’ through intelligent conversation based on biblical truth. When she is not behind her microphone, Janet is speaking across the country on issues impacting Christians. She has authored several books, including her latest, Buyer Beware:Finding Truth in the Marketplace of Ideas. Parshall and her husband, Craig, live in Virginia, and have four children and six grandchildren.
***1/2/15 – The Economist Magazine mentioned the book
- World politics
- Business & finance
- Science & technology
- Print edition
Religion and public policy
Jefferson and religious liberty
The father of freedom
Jan 2nd 2015, 10:41 BY B.C.
IF THERE is one individual who first gave expression to the American ideal of freedom,and religious freedom in particular, it was Thomas Jefferson. Indeed, the third president himself had very clear ideas on his role in history. He laid down that his tombstone should record three achievements: his authorship of the Declaration of Independence; the statute of religious freedom in his home state ofVirginia; and the establishment of theUniversity of Virginia.
Nobody questions Jefferson’s decisive part in establishing liberty of belief. But almost everything else about the statesman’s complex attitude to metaphysical matters has been argued over furiously, and the arguers have plenty of raw material. In the course of American history, “freedom of religion” has itself become a kind of religion, and Jefferson’s words, including the 18,000 letters he wrote during his 83 years of life, serve as a kind of holy writ. To this day, many of the bitterest ideological battles raging across America (over prayer in schools, creationism, religious entitlements at work, and so on) are conducted in the name of different visions of religious liberty. So different factions naturally turn to the creator of that ideal, pore over his writings, and ask the unanswerable question: what would Jefferson do?
On one hand, secularists and religious sceptics point with relish to Jefferson’s utter contempt for “priestcraft” and religious power structures of all kinds. Religious believers can retort by stressing his reverence for Jesus as a moral teacher and reformer, and his clear belief in a supreme or providential power. A controversial Texan evangelical, David Barton, has sought to invoke Jefferson in support of his view that America was explicitly founded as a Christian country; but in 2012 a Christian publishing house withdrew at the last moment from circulating a book by Mr Barton on that theme, on grounds that the accuracy of his arguments was open to question. Mr Barton and his supporters objected strongly.
A new book on Jefferson’s religion, “Doubting Thomas”, steers a middle course. On one hand, it squarely accepts that especially after 1800 (in other words, during his presidency and above all, in retirement) Jefferson explicitly renounced many tenets of traditional Christianity. His enquiring and “enlightened” mind had no time for unfathomable mystery. If the idea of one God in three persons was beyond human understanding, it must be wrong. He was exasperated by elaborate theological systems and their authors, from the early church father Athanasius to the Protestant thinker John Calvin. Jefferson disliked the Calvinist notion of “salvation by faith alone” and was inclined to the opposite view; people should be rewarded for what they do, not what they believe. His classically trained intellect led him to the view that diversity of belief should be welcomed, not condemned or punished.
The book’s main author, Mark Beliles, is a non-denominational but traditional Protestant pastor, based in the statesman’s home region of central Virginia, and he can’t be accused of refashioning Jefferson to his own tastes. What he does argue, though, is that the statesman took a benign view of all forms of Christianity, as long as they did not oppress others, or aspire to political power. Although the founder’s political opponents accused him of being an infidel, Jefferson never ceased to have a rich and warm web of relationships with many clergy, mostly traditional ones. Over his 65 adult years, the author calculates, Jefferson had significant interactions with 100 religious figures, of whom roughly speaking, 80 were Protestant Trinitarians, eight Catholic Trinitarians and another eight were unconventional sorts who rejected the Trinity. Jefferson was a generous donor to churches, most of which held traditional beliefs. And whatever his personal convictions, his outward religious practice was generally that of an active, church-going Anglican, whenever that sort of church was available to him. He began his adult church life as an Anglican vestryman, which was an important position, and his formal loyalty to that church was reaffirmed in the final years of his life.
Jefferson was, in short, a typically paradoxical product of the constitution he helped to inspire. He had a deep, visceral loathing for government-backed religion, but he also believed in the free exercise of faith, with the emphasis on free. Holding those two principles in tension wasn’t easy for Jefferson, and it hasn’t been easy for any subsequent generation. Nor will his legacy ever provide any simple answers.
PS-the links didn’t go through. But they have a link to our official book website, which we created: www.doubtingthomasbook.com
PPS-the original article: http://www.economist.com/blogs/erasmus/2015/01/jefferson-and-religious-liberty?zid=309&ah=80dcf288b8561b012f603b9fd9577f0e
***1/12/15-Kerby Anderson’s program, “Point of View,” Mark Beliles and Jerry Newcombe were guests.
Monday, January 12, 2015
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In the first hour of the show today, Kerby welcomes author James L. Buckley who will chat about his book, Saving Congress from Itself: Emancipating the States and Empowering Their People. In the second hour, authors Dr. Mark A. Beliles and Dr. Jerry Newcombe discuss their book, Doubting Thomas: The Religious Life and Legacy of Thomas Jefferson.
Point of View Radio Talk Show Host
Kerby Anderson has more than 30 years of experience in ministry and currently serves as the President of Probe Ministries as well as Host of Point of View Radio Talk Show. He graduated from Oregon State University and holds masters degrees from Yale University (science) and Georgetown University (government). He is the author of thirteen books including Signs of Warning…
James L. Buckley
James L. Buckley was born in New York City in 1923, grew up in rural Connecticut, and received his B.A. from Yale University. Following his service as a naval officer in World War II, he returned to New Haven to secure his law degree. After several years in private practice, he joined a group of small companies engaged in oil exploration abroad. He was elected to the United States Senate in 1970 as the candidate of New York’s Conservative Party. He served as an under secretary of state in the Reagan administration; president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Munich, Germany; and as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Buckley retired in 2000 and lives in his hometown of Sharon, Connecticut.
Saving Congress from Itself: Emancipating the States and Empowering Their People
Saving Congress from Itself proposes a single reform: eliminate all federal grants-in-aid to state and local governments. This action would reduce federal spending by over $600 billion a year and have a profound effect on how we govern ourselves. The proliferation of federal grants-in-aid programs is of recent vintage: only about 100 such grants existed before Lyndon Johnson took office, and now they number more than 1,100. Eliminating grants to the states will result in enormous savings in federal and state administrative costs; free states to set their own priorities; and improve the design and implementation of programs now subsidized by Washington by eliminating federal regulations that attend the grants.
Dr. Mark Beliles
Mark A. Beliles is an historian and teacher of American religious culture. He is editor of The Selected Religious Letters and Papers of Thomas Jefferson (America Publications, 2013) that included over 50 Jefferson letters never before seen in print. Beliles earned his Ph.D. from Whitefield Theological Seminary and his dissertation was “Free As the Air”–Churches and Politics in Jefferson’s Virginia, 1736-1836. The dissertation and another book in 2014 entitled “Playful in His Closet”–The Complete Religious History of Thomas Jefferson are both available at www.AmericaPublications.com. Beliles has organized, with sponsorship of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, several scholarly symposiums held at the University of Virginia on Jefferson and religion that each featured dozens of nationally-known Jefferson scholars and church and state historians.
Dr. Jerry Newcombe
Dr. Jerry Newcombe serves as the co-host, a columnist, and a spokesperson for Truth in Action Ministries, founded by the late Dr. D. James Kennedy. Jerry has produced or co-produced more than 60 one hour television specials that have aired nationwide. Jerry is the author or co-author of twenty-four books, at least two of which have been bestsellers, George Washington’s Sacred Fire (with Dr. Peter Lillback) and What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? (with Dr. Kennedy). Jerry has appeared on numerous talk shows as a guest, including Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher (4x), Janet Parshall’s America, Point of View, the Moody radio network, TBN, etc. Jerry hosts a weekly radio program on Christian radio, “GraceFM,”. Jerry resides in South Florida with his family.
Doubting Thomas: The Religious Life and Legacy of Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson and the founding fathers intended a strict separation of church and state, right? He would have been very upset to find out about a child praying in a public school or a government building used for religious purposes, correct? Actually, the history on this has been very distorted. While Jefferson may seem to be the Patron Saint of the ACLU, his words and actions showed that he would totally disagree with the idea of driving God out of the public square. Doubting Thomas documents that. . . * Jefferson said that our rights come from God. God-given rights are non-negotiables. * At the time that he wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom—major contributions to human and religious rights—Jefferson served diligently as a vestryman (like an elder and a deacon rolled into one) for the Episcopal Church.
Was Jefferson Really a Doubting Thomas?
Unless you’ve been living in a cave lately, you might have noticed there seems to be an ongoing onslaught against our Judeo-Christian traditions and beliefs. It’s happening on virtually every front in our culture – …
***Kerby also posted Jerry Newcombe’s November 4, 2014 column on Jefferson and his faith.