There is a fierce debate going on at Darryl Hart’s “Old Life” blog about how to define “Christian” in the context of the American founding era. After writing a rather straightforward post on Donald Lutz’s study of the books quoted by the founding fathers, all hell broke loose in the comments section. It looks like the good folks at American Creation—Jon Rowe and Tom Van Dyke particularly–are holding forth in a conversation that includes a host of other voices as well.
If you can endure the long-winded posts, it might be worth your time.
My favorite line so far: Hart asks commentator Bill Fortenberry if George Whitefield would think George Washington needed to be converted. (My answer to this question is a resounding “yes”).
Tom Van Dyke says
Anyone who messes with Bill Fortenberry better have his texts in a row. The man's encyclopedic.
Not just the Bible, but Locke–in fact, Bill's socio-historical definition of “Christian” is the one Locke argues, a belief in Jesus as the Messiah but with a lot of the other stuff [including Trinitarianism] optional.
Since in the Founding era Trinitarians sat cheek-by-jowl with unitarians in New England churches–their schism came later, in the 1820s
for practical purposes–butts in the pews–Locke's minimum was met.
The rest was–and continues to be–theological niggling by those with a dog in the fight.
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