Our Founding Fathers: Were the Founding Fathers Really Christians?

While it might seem like a trivial question, the answer is actually the birthplace of our national identity.  The beliefs and convictions of our founding fathers lay the groundwork for interpreting our Declaration of Independence and Constitution—the documents that direct our daily freedoms.

According to Real Clear Politics, an average of several polls observed over the past couple of weeks, a staggering 65% of Americans feel the nation is heading in the wrong direction.[1] What is more worrisome is the lack of consensus on what direction is right.

Political pundits assert that this is because of a lack of leadership; Christians say it is because we have rejected God; atheists assert it is because we have too much religion. With so many varying opinions, how are we ever going to move forward to be the nation we once were?

At the Constitutional Congress on July 28, 1787, the Congress had been in a gridlock for over a month. After all, deciding on a brand new government with the voice and opinions of 55 men was no easy task. But it took the voice of one man to bring order to that meeting and determining our nation’s foundation.

“How has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly appealing to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings…I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?”

constitutional-convention

Who said this? Benjamin Franklin.

For all of the critics who alleged that Franklin was a deist, is it unusual that he appealed to God to intervene in the affairs of men? What’s more is that he is here quoting Jesus[2] at a government meeting?

This quote alone establishes that Benjamin Franklin, at least in the latter part of his life, was in fact not a deist.[3] While there is not enough time to dive completely into what Benjamin Franklin actually lived and believed (stay tuned at a later date for that discussion), these words allow him to be a variety of things. A deist is not one of them.

The result of this faith-ridden stance has been marked as the time when the Constitutional Congress began daily praying and attending church services…and subsequently established our revolutionary form of government in less than 6 weeks.

This Founding Fathers post will be the first of many in a new blog series that will seek to open the discussion on the Faith of our Founding Fathers.

Reestablishing our national identity requires looking to what that foundation was built on and who built it. To keep our foundation from being taken out from underneath us we must call to God for help.

President George Washington proclaimed, “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, ad humbly to implore His protection and favor.”

 

[1] Real Clear Politics averaged 6 polls conducted between 9/3-9/15/2014.http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/other/direction_of_country-902.html

[2] Matthew 10:29 “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” (New International Version)

[3] Deism: 1. Belief in the existence of a God on the evidence of reason and nature only, with rejection of supernatural revelation (distinguished from theism ). 2. Belief in a God who created the world but has since remained indifferent to it. Dictonary.com.

 

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14 replies
  1. Martin says:

    “Reestablishing our national identity requires looking to what that foundation was built on and who built it. To keep our foundation from being taken out from underneath us we must call to God for help.”

    Who is included in this “we”? Buddhists, Hindus, Catholics, Protestants, Atheists?

    Does reestablishing “our national identity” require some citizens to be alienated?

    Reply
    • Krista Wenzel says:

      Hey Martin!
      Great questions! I love looking at how diverse America has become in over 200 years! To think people from all walks of life could come to a nation and live in the freedom, through a government system formed by a small group of men which allowed and welcomed all nationalities to come! Not only that, but then encouraged so many to come is so inspiring! Think of the Homestead Act of 1862 (signed into law by Abraham Lincoln, in fact), which allowed people who had never fought against the United States to apply for land grants so they could come to farm, which included women and freed slaves! The government did not neglect people coming and establishing based on religion, race, or sex at all. They wanted to build a strong nation. Not only that but between 1892 and 1954, over 12 million people came to America through Ellis Island alone! The “we” has obviously changed so much during our nation’s history, and in future blogs, I hope to touch on that.

      But to directly answer your question, the frame of our government never limited the practice of religion or really even encouraged one religion over another. In fact, due to the nature of how many European denominations of Christianity were coming to settle and establish America the word religion was more synonymous with denomination than what we think of today. Remember Quakers predominately settled in PA, Catholics in Maryland, etc. And while those religions, or denominations, were not exclusive in those colonies/new states, those were the majorities the delegates were representing during the Continental and Congressional Congresses. That is why of the 55 delegates in the Constitutional Congress, only 42 originally signed the Constitution in September 1787. To be fair to the Founding Fathers, at the time the Constitutional Congress took place, the Founding Fathers were more concerned with keeping a nation together, because of how close it came to splitting apart. Even with the Constitution passed, it took another 2 years for the Bill of Rights to appear, and another 2 years after that for George Washington to be sworn into office.

      All that to say, I believe the American national identity depends on including all people groups. Think of where the world is as a direct result of celebrating differences and working together, instead of being subjected to the whims of monarchies, oligarchies, etc. It is truly a miracle our nation came together, but then has stayed together. Try to look up some of the original text of the Constitutional Congress in 1787 sometime to see all of the heated discussions, its pretty amazing to read the differences of opinion and how hotly those opinions were discussed!

      Did that answer your question? Thanks for reading!

      Reply
    • Charles says:

      No Alienated. Ultimately, hopefully converted to Faith in God. In the one true God of the Bible. There is salvation in no other but Jesus Christ, Acts 4:12 & John 14:6 No alienation, just the plain truth.

      Reply
  2. Stephen B says:

    “With so many varying opinions, how are we ever going to move forward to be the nation we once were?”

    Who says returning to then is what’s required? We had slavery then – none of us want that back, right? Blacks and whites couldn’t marry each other in every state until 1967. There was no God in the pledge of allegiance until the 1950s, women couldn’t vote until the last century. How much of this would you want to roll back?

    Reply
    • Krista Wenzel says:

      Hey Stephen,
      Great questions. Our nation is always moving forward, the Founding Father put America on the right track. Thankfully though, as you rightly pointed out, we will never return to where we were. Like you said the nation did not start out in a perfect State. Taking the slavery of issue alone, post-revolutionary America had controversial and complex views on slavery alone. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were both slave holders, yet both were opposed to it. George Washington said it was repugnant; Jefferson called it a “hideous blot” on America. (http://www.crf-usa.org/black-history-month/the-constitution-and-slavery) With how complex this issue is, at this point, I will say in later blog I will try to address this a little more. However, I will say that instead of standing for what they believed in, they left the issue to later generations who paid the price dearly to do what is right.

      Believe me, I am a huge fan of where we have come as a nation! It is an interesting exercise to think about where the World would be at today without the role of America (think the outcome of World War 1 and 2, etc). But I was more referring to where we are now with American’s being unimpressed with our overall leadership, and where we go from here! 🙂

      Thanks!

      Reply
      • Stephen B says:

        “But I was more referring to where we are now with American’s being unimpressed with our overall leadership, and where we go from here!”

        I think that’s principally a result of having a nation divided politically. Half the country is going to be unhappy with the leadership regardless of what the leadership does – the liberal half of the country will be unhappy with the conservative leaders, the conservatives half of the country will be unhappy with the moderate conservative leaders.

        Reply
        • Terry L says:

          Just for curiosity, Stephen, why did you make your statement asymmetric? “The liberal half of the country will be unhappy with the conservative leaders, the conservatives half of the country will be unhappy with the moderate conservative leaders.”

          Reply
          • Terry L says:

            As I said… it’s the symmetry. Why did you not say, “The liberal half of the country will be unhappy with the conservative leaders, the conservatives half of the country will be unhappy with the moderate conservative liberal leaders.” ??

  3. John Moore says:

    A few basic questions for this series of posts:

    1) Is God-belief the foundational reason for America’s success in the world? Regardless of what the founders believed, does God sustain America due to our belief in Him?

    2) Does the establishment clause protect people’s right to be atheist too, or does it just protect people’s right to choose their theistic denomination? Is it just freedom of religion or also freedom from religion?

    3) God is king of the universe. Heaven is not a democracy. How can we reconcile America’s principles of democracy with God? Is it legally OK if apostates outvote the faithful?

    Reply
  4. Charles says:

    “Is it legally OK if apostates outvote the faithful?”

    You say apostates but I doubt apostates consider themselves as such… In other words; with civil government structure we are dealing more with “human rights” as opposed to “religious rights”. That is why same sex marriage, abortion rights and other liberal victories were inevitable. A biased political structure will never last forever and, if I’m not mistaken, was not actually the intent of America’s founding fathers. This is why we can amend the Constitution; so we can improve upon the system and not remain stagnant in old ideology.

    Reply
  5. Kay Dixon says:

    Because all Religion’s are able to feely worship in the US..is not a bad thing..for it is what our country as founded upon..that freedome to worship..now everything is acceoted as good..except the Truth’s of Our one and only God of the Bible in it’s entirety..there are many many acceoted as Christian who do not follow or adhere to the teachings of Christ..or may use HIS Words in part..picking and choosing which scriptues to follow..and what they mean..so I do not cosider our nation a Christian Nation in any sense of thecWord..there are very few of us..and oersecution of the true Word of God has crept in…I do not call myself a Christian..I am now an always will be a Follower of Jesus Christ our Lord….

    Reply
  6. Dustin says:

    Wonderful article!
    Can you please include the source listings for both the Franklin quote and the Washington quote in this article? I think most people would want to know that these are truly authentic.

    Reply

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