The Robert J. Morgan Podcast | Episode 6: George Washington: Deist or Christian? (Part 1)

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Was George Washington a Christian or a Deist?

Many revisionist historians have claimed he was a Deist.

In Part 1 of his two-episode discussion of George Washington’s faith, Rob lays out 8 of his 16 reasons for assuming George Washington was a Christian and not a Deist in his personal faith.

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welcome to the Robert J Morgan podcast a podcast dedicated to helping you believe and cherish the Bible and to learn and love Christian history and hymnody I'm producer Joshua Rowe introducing your host Robert J Morgan Rob has written dozens of books with titles like the red sea rules 100 Bible verses everyone should know by heart and then sings my soul his newest book 100 Bible verses that made America is a biblical tour through American history and releases in February of 2020 but can be pre-ordered down visit Robert J Morgan dot-com for more details and for free downloads related to this resource or pre-order from your favorite online retailer and now here's your host Robert J Morgan hello this is Robert J Morgan talking about my book 100 Bible verses that made America trying to explain American history without its Bible is like the Liberty Bell without its clapper had there been no Bible there would be no America as we know it revisionist historians are trying to erase the Bible's influence on American history but no eraser on earth can truly do that I believe that it's past time for us to celebrate the past the biblical influences that helped create the United States of America I have noticed of course that various other groups are pushing agendas to make sure that their contributions to American history are included and laws are being passed to that effect schoolchildren are being indoctrinated by forces of secularism yet at the same time the radical secularists are minimizing or erasing the contribution of Christians in the role of the Bible to American history and indeed the very message of the Bible has been censored and banned in the schools of America but no one can truly remove history and heritage and trying to displace our national biblical history as a fool's errand had there been no Bible there would be no America as we know it now not every founding father was a Christian and not every Christian among them was perfect and none of them were but the Word of God itself is perfect and infallible and it is a mistake to minimize the foundational influence this book of books has had on the creation and the sustaining of the nation that became America a great example of revisionist and secular stick influences on altering history involves George Washington during his lifetime no one seriously doubted that Washington was a Christian he was an Anglican and he willingly said and affirmed the historic creeds of the Anglican Church on his tomb his family inscribed Scripture about the resurrection Washington died in 1799 and during the 1800s no one seriously questioned his Christianity at the beginning of the 1900s it was commonly understood that George Washington claimed to be a Christian and was a Christian now to be perfectly candid I truly do not know if George Washington was born again if he was a genuinely saved man if he had truly placed his saving faith in God for salvation I think he was but only God knows that but in terms of his professed and demonstrated faith he was clearly Christian and his beliefs and convictions and his Christian beliefs guided him in his character and conduct and yet in the 1930s as humanism filtered more powerfully into the currents of American culture historians and biographers determined that George Washington must have been a deist what is a deist it's someone who believes there must be a God who created the universe in a world but then for all practical purposes he abandoned it there are different shades and degrees of deism but it is essentially a belief in an absent God a remote and impersonal God the words deist India ISM come from the latin term Dios for God deism says that God was the first cause of everything that he created the universe but that he doesn't interact directly with his created world he is absent there are no miracles now there is no divine revelation to me it's a very strange and unreasonable position the very nature of the word God would imply infinite perfection love purity wisdom communicative ability and concern for creation in my opinion George Washington was too reasonable and logical a man to hold such an unsustainable philosophy but was he a Christian in his convictions I want to devote two sessions of this podcast to exploring the religion of George Washington and here is a biblical moment in American history with which I start my book it occurred on April the 30th 1789 at 1 o'clock in the afternoon in New York City on Wall Street there at Federal Hall General Washington dressed an immodest double-breasted brown suit stood on the balcony beside a copy of the Holy Bible it was bound in rich brown leather and been hastily borrowed from the altar of a nearby st. John's Lodge it rested on a red cushion held by Samuel Otis the Secretary of the Senate and it was opened to Genesis 49 the passage containing the blessings of Jacob to his twelve sons who were destined to be a great nation Washington laid his hands upon that Holy Bible and took the oath of office as the first president of the United States Washington did not place his hand on the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution of the United States as solid as those documents are nor did he place his hand on any other religious or secular book it was the Bible that sanctified the moment it was the Bible that provided the foundations needed for democracy it was the God of the Bible who provided the authority of human government and after Washington took the oath of office he did something else he bent over and kissed the Bible that alone would indicate to me that he had reverence and love for the Word of God and for its divine author but in addition to that highly public seminal American moment let me give you 16 specific reasons for assuming the George Washington was a Christian and not a dear than his personal faith like everyone who studies this subject I've used a number of sources there have been many books about George Washington's religious faith since his death in 1799 but all of us who are interested in this subject Oh a debt of gratitude to the extensive research done by Peter a lil aback and his best-selling book George Washington's sacred fire I certainly recommend it but now sixteen reasons to believe George Washington was a Christian and not a deist and his convictions and professions of faith number one Washington never declared himself to be a deist no where in all of his writings does he claim to be a deist nor does he provide any endorsement or recommendation for deism in fact when his dear friend Thomas Paine who had written Common Sense which helped define and shape the revolution later wrote a book decrying the Christian faith in the Bible that book was the age of reason Washington broke off friendship with him the two men became alienated by pain secular attack on Christianity the age of reason was not in Washington's library and after its publication Thomas Paine was no longer on his correspondence list number two while Washington never declared himself to be a deist he did declare himself to be a Christian on October the 25th 1762 he took the earth to be a vest Roman of his local church and he affirmed his belief in the historic doctrines of the church and of the Bible he spoke the Creed's and made vows to the church and its doctrines the official Mount Vernon website has a page devoted to Washington's religion it says quote much has been written about George Washington and his religious beliefs some even goes so far as to suggest he did not believe in God while others believed he was a deist while rather private about his religious beliefs George Washington was an Anglican the Washington's attended services about once a month the two churches near Mount Vernon during the Revolutionary War Washington regularly attended services held by military chaplains and local civilian congregations often when he was traveling Washington would stop for services at whatever church was nearby regardless of its denomination unquote third Washington came from a family of devout believers his father was active in the Anglican Church and as we saw in the last podcast his mother Mary Ball Washington was godly and self-willed and a very active teacher to Scripture and of her son Washington's wife Martha was a devout believer in Christ no one doubts the vitality of her Christian faith and experience furthermore Washington brought his children who were his stepchildren actually explicitly Christian text books and also prayer books and Bibles he had their names gilded on them in gold fourth George Washington spoke about his faith like many leaders he was private about his own religious practices and he worked hard to be non-sectarian in his statements yet sometimes he simply couldn't help himself and spoke explicitly about Christianity consider what he told the Delaware Indian chiefs when they asked for his advice about teaching their children he told them that they would do well to quote learn our way of life and arts but above all the religion of Jesus Christ this will make you a greater and happier people than you are unquote on October 19 1777 he wrote a letter to General Israel PETMAN whose wife had died and Washington said I am extremely sorry to hear of the death of mrs. Putman and sympathise with you upon the occasion remember that all must die and that she had lived to an honorable age I hope you will bear the misfortune with the fortitude and complicity of mind that becomes a man and a Christian on may 2nd 1778 Washington issued these orders to his army the commander-in-chief directs that divine service be performed every Sunday at 11 o'clock and those brigades to which there are chaplains those which have had none should attend places of worship nearest to it is expected that officers of all ranks will divide by their attendance set an example to their men while we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers we certainly ought not to be an attentive to the higher duties of religion to the distinguished character of patriot it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian and On June 8 1783 after the war was over in Washington was disbanding the army he wrote a letter to the governors of the thirteen states and he ended a circular letter with one of the most remarkable paragraph she'll ever read it is written in Washington's own hand he ended his letter by giving the governor's a prayer he had composed and was offering for the people of the United States his prayer was that they should all become more and more like Jesus Christ for without that influence we can never hope to be a happy country quoted for you verbatim Washington said I now make it my earnest prayer that God would have you in the state over which you preside in his holy protection that he would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another for their fellow citizens of the United States at large and particularly for their brethren who have served in the field and finally that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose all of us to do justice to love mercy and to demean ourselves with that charity humility and Pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine author of our blessed religion and without a humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation well who was the quote divine author of our blessed religion that was Washington's Reverend and diplomatic way of referring to Jesus Christ without a humble imitation of whom we can never hope to be a happiness here's a fifth reason why I believe Washington was a Christian he displayed a broad knowledge of Scripture he was certainly an avid reader of Scripture his favorite verse or at least one that he seems to have quoted more than any other was micah chapter 4 verse 4 but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree and none shall make them afraid for the math of the Lord of Hosts has spoken it this was Washington's view of what he wanted in his own life and for what he wanted for all Americans that everyone would have a little place where they could sit into their fig tree and under their vine with security and without fear and with reverence towards God number 6 Washington loved and listened to and collected and read sermons on Sundays when he was home he went to church and in the evening he and Martha would read Christian sermons that he had collected Washington had a personal secretary who served him from 1784 until the president's death in 1799 this man was Tobias Lear he wrote quote while President Washington followed the in variable routine on Sundays the day was passed very quietly no company being invited to his house and after breakfast the president read aloud a chapter from the Bible and then the whole family attended church together unquote Washington's stepson George Washington and park Curtis was known as wash and was raised at Mount Vernon and he said quote General Washington was always strict and decorous observer of the Sabbath or Sunday he invariably attended divine services once a day when within the reach of a place of worship his respect for the clergy as a body is shown by public entertainments to them on Sunday no visitors were admitted to the president's house with only one exception mr. speaker Trumbull on Sundays unless the weather was uncommon ly severe the President and mrs. Washington attended divine services at Christ's Church and in the evenings the president read to mrs. Washington and her chamber a sermon or some portion from the sacred writings in fact Washington collected sermons and had them bound for his library for example Reverend Isaac Lewis preached a sermon entitled the divine mission of Jesus Christ from his wife and from the nature and tendency of his doctrines today we try to come up with catch your titles through our sermons but that was the custom then well in this sermon which was a favorite of Washington's Isaac Lewis said quote either Jesus Christ was who he professed to be the one sent by God and the savior of the world or he was a deluded enthusiast who thought himself the subject of a divine mission and of divine revelation when in fact he was not or he was the grossest and most designing imposter who ever lived one or the other of these must have been the truth if then his life and doctrines were such as it is impossible to suppose they should have been had he have acted the part either of an enthusiast or a deceiver it must follow that he was the person he claimed to be and the religion he taught is from God and if Christ received his mission from God Christianity is established on an immovable basis the nations may rage and the people may imagine a vain thing but the counsel of God shall stand and he will do all his pleasure the church rest on an unshakable foundation and the gates of hell shall never finally prevail against it well as I said why she didn't love that sermon and he wrote a letter back to Isaac Lewis saying for the sermons that you had the goodness to send me I pray you will accept my things the doctrine in them is sound and as credit to its author I wish I could get the president in the United States to endorse one of my sermons or my books like that these are the sermons that Washington collected and read to his family it was sermons like this number seven Washington was faithful and attending church although critics have pointed out that he went for a long stretch of time without taking the Lord's Supper they say that proves that he turned away from his Christian upbringing but there were perhaps reasons Washington did not pretend communion for a period of time in his life he was Anglican which was the state Church of England Washington observed communion up to the time of the Revolutionary War but during the Revolution he was leading a rebellion against the man who in British thought was the head of the Anglican Church and so it was a complicated matter there are credible reports that Washington received communion from other denominations and that after the war he again received communion from his own church but it's also true that communion was not practiced so often in those days only two or three times a year and that communion services were held after church and not during the actual service so I think it may be a mistake to try to define Washington as an unbeliever simply because we don't know how often he attended Communion and ate and their extensive analysis of George Washington's writings letters statements proclamations and speeches Jerry Newcombe and Peter low-back found that Washington used about a hundred different titles for God and he used the word God over a hundred times and the word heaven over a hundred times he called God the great author of the universe the great disposer of human events the all-powerful guide they Almighty God the architect of the universe the giver of life the god of armies the great director of events the greatest and highest of blessings the Lord of Hosts the ruler of Nations the ruler of the universe Washington also used a variety of terms of reverence and respect to describe the Lord Jesus Christ as we've seen he is the divine author of our Blessed relation Washington also called him our gracious Redeemer the great Lord and ruler of Nations the judge of the hearts of men and the giver of life some people say why didn't he just use the name Jesus more often but part of the answer has to do with the culture of preaching in those days when one reads the sermons from the pulpits of the period around the Revolutionary War one discovers the same phrases and the Old Testament the Jews did not want to say the name Jehovah or Yahweh because it was so sacred and there seems to have been something of that attitude in colonial history preachers would talk about our gracious Redeemer the divine author our blessed religion and so forth they were referring to Jesus Christ but they tended to use honorific terms they tended toward elegant language and as a political leader to all Americans this language suited Washington's purpose as well well there are more reasons why I believe that George Washington was a Christian and not an atheist and agnostic or a deist will it get them in the next podcast I hope that you will follow along and also check out my book 100 Bible verses that made America this podcast was produced by Joshua Rowe and clearly media edited by Elijah Rowe music by Jordan Davis for more information and resources visit my website at Robert J Morgan Tom this is Robert J Morgan thank you for listening you