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The religious beliefs of America's founders : reason, revelation, and revolution / Gregg L. Frazer.

By: Frazer, Gregg L.
Material type: TextTextSeries: American political thought: Publisher: Lawrence, Kan. : University Press of Kansas, c2012Description: xii, 299 p. ; 25 cm.ISBN: 9780700618453 (alk. paper); 0700618457 (alk. paper).Subject(s): Founding Fathers of the United States -- Religious life | Religion and politics -- United States -- History -- 18th century | United States -- Religion -- To 1800 | Theism -- United States | Rationalism | United States -- Church history -- 18th centuryDDC classification: 200.92/273
Contents:
Theistic rationalism introduced -- "Divine" sources of theistic rationalism -- Theistic rationalism in the revolutionary pulpit -- Theistic rationalism of John Adams -- Theistic rationalism of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin -- Theistic rationalism of the key framers -- Theistic rationalism of George Washington -- Significance of theistic rationalism.
Summary: Were America's Founders Christians or deists? Conservatives and secularists have taken each position respectively, mustering evidence to insist just how tall the wall separating church and state should be. Now Gregg Frazer puts their arguments to rest in the first comprehensive analysis of the Founders' beliefs as they themselves expressed them -- showing that today's political right and left are both wrong. Going beyond church attendance or public pronouncements made for political ends, Frazer scrutinizes the Founders' candid declarations regarding religion found in their private writings. Distilling decades of research, he contends that these men were neither Christian nor deist but rather adherents of a system he labels "theistic rationalism," a hybrid belief system that combined elements of natural religion, Protestantism, and reason -- with reason the decisive element. Frazer explains how this theological middle ground developed, what its core beliefs were, and how they were reflected in the thought of eight Founders: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Wilson, Gouverneur Morris, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and George Washington. He argues convincingly that Congregationalist Adams is the clearest example of theistic rationalism; that presumed deists Jefferson and Franklin are less secular than supposed; and that even the famously taciturn Washington adheres to this theology. He also shows that the Founders held genuinely religious beliefs that aligned with morality, republican government, natural rights, science, and progress. Frazer's careful explication helps readers better understand the case for revolutionary recruitment, the religious references in the Declaration of Independence, and the religious elements -- and lack thereof -- in the Constitution. He also reveals how influential clergymen, backing their theology of theistic rationalism with reinterpreted Scripture, preached and published liberal democratic theory to justify rebellion. - Publisher.
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Item type Current location Call number Status Date due Barcode
Book University of Texas At Tyler
Stacks - 3rd Floor
BL2525 .F74 2012 (Browse shelf) Available 0000002143451

Includes bibliographical references and index.

Theistic rationalism introduced -- "Divine" sources of theistic rationalism -- Theistic rationalism in the revolutionary pulpit -- Theistic rationalism of John Adams -- Theistic rationalism of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin -- Theistic rationalism of the key framers -- Theistic rationalism of George Washington -- Significance of theistic rationalism.

Were America's Founders Christians or deists? Conservatives and secularists have taken each position respectively, mustering evidence to insist just how tall the wall separating church and state should be. Now Gregg Frazer puts their arguments to rest in the first comprehensive analysis of the Founders' beliefs as they themselves expressed them -- showing that today's political right and left are both wrong. Going beyond church attendance or public pronouncements made for political ends, Frazer scrutinizes the Founders' candid declarations regarding religion found in their private writings. Distilling decades of research, he contends that these men were neither Christian nor deist but rather adherents of a system he labels "theistic rationalism," a hybrid belief system that combined elements of natural religion, Protestantism, and reason -- with reason the decisive element. Frazer explains how this theological middle ground developed, what its core beliefs were, and how they were reflected in the thought of eight Founders: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Wilson, Gouverneur Morris, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and George Washington. He argues convincingly that Congregationalist Adams is the clearest example of theistic rationalism; that presumed deists Jefferson and Franklin are less secular than supposed; and that even the famously taciturn Washington adheres to this theology. He also shows that the Founders held genuinely religious beliefs that aligned with morality, republican government, natural rights, science, and progress. Frazer's careful explication helps readers better understand the case for revolutionary recruitment, the religious references in the Declaration of Independence, and the religious elements -- and lack thereof -- in the Constitution. He also reveals how influential clergymen, backing their theology of theistic rationalism with reinterpreted Scripture, preached and published liberal democratic theory to justify rebellion. - Publisher.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

Frazer (history & political studies, Master's Coll.) aims here to correct decades of research and writing on the religion of America's founders. He asserts the founders were neither deists nor Christians; rather, they were theistic rationalists, a term he invented. Frazer offers no support for his new definition of a group whom he admits were not a group at all but individuals who "forged their own trail." While he calls them theistic rationalists, he argues that the founders were in fact more supportive of religion than has been previously thought by historians: they never intended for the complete separation of church and state. In fact, the founders actually favored government support of religion, just not the endorsement of a specific Christian denomination. Verdict Ultimately, Frazer tries to make the case against what he calls a "living constitution" in favor of strict interpretation of it as written by the founders and based on their writings, which he references in individual chapters on the men. Apart from those writings, he uses a select group of secondary sources to support his case, approaches no contrary evidence to his central argument, and often makes questionable leaps in logic. Not recommended.-Jason Martin, Stetson Univ. Lib., DeLand, FL (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

CHOICE Review

The debate over the religious beliefs of the founders of the American Republic continues to rage between the deist camp and Christian evangelicals, as characterized by David Barton's recently discredited The Jefferson Lies (2012). Making a claim for a via media between deism and orthodox Christianity, Frazer (Master's College, Santa Clarita, California) here proposes a distinctly new category he refers to as "theistic rationalism." "Theistic rationalists" drew upon theologians such as Unitarian Joseph Priestley and Anglican divine Samuel Clarke, for whom the acceptable doctrines of Christianity served the purpose of giving a due regard for God and his creation and facilitated the system of rewards and punishments that bound man in the transcendent realm while heightening his moral sense and benevolence toward his fellow man. Frazer argues that the key founders valued religion not for any truths delivered by divine revelation or as a means to salvation but because of its "laudable effects," which included providing a foundation for public morality. In summary, Frazer has skillfully marshaled a considerable amount of evidence in support of his new category of revolutionary-era religious belief and added more fuel to an already intense discourse. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All academic levels/libraries. B. C. Odom Jefferson State Community College

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