Recent Posts

Saturday, June 25, 2011

John Adams: Was He Really an Enemy of Christians? Addressing Modern Academic Shallowness

by David Barton

At WallBuilders, we are truly blessed by God, owning tens of thousands of original documents from the American Founding – documents clearly demonstrating the Christian and Biblical foundations both of America and of so many of her Founding Fathers and early statesmen. We frequently post original documents on our website so that others may enjoy them and learn more about many important aspects of America’s rich moral, religious, and constitutional heritage that are widely unknown or misportrayed today.

We recently posted a December 21, 1809, letter from John Adams to Dr. Benjamin Rush (a close friend of Adams and a co-signer of the Declaration of Independence). That letter was Adams’ reply to a remarkable letter written him by Dr. Rush on October 17, 1809, describing a dream Rush believed God had given him about Adams. WallBuilders providentially obtained this original letter from an amazing presidential collection of a 100+ year old Floridian woman.

We often use quotes from that letter, including Adams’ bold declaration that:
The Holy Ghost carries on the whole Christian system in this Earth. Not a baptism, not a marriage, not a sacrament can be administered but by the Holy Ghost. . . . There is no authority, civil or religious – there can be no legitimate government – but that which is administered by this Holy Ghost. There can be no salvation without it. All without it is rebellion and perdition, or in more orthodox words, damnation. 1
This letter certainly contains profound Christian content, but that is not particularly surprising, for Adams wrote dozens of letters with similarly powerful Christian declarations. Also not surprising is the fact that liberals and atheists have attacked this letter and its content; they dismiss it with the excuse that Adams didn’t really mean what he said in the letter, or that it was code for something different from what he actually said. But what was surprising and unexpected is that this letter and its remarkable content did not set well with some Christians, especially Chris Pinto. Pinto has produced videos claiming not only that America does not have a Biblical foundation but specifically asserting that the Founding Fathers were largely pagans who represented the spirit of the Anti-Christ. He believes that Christians should not be involved in the political arena or similar areas of culture. 2
Pinto seems to have developed a fixation with WallBuilders, joining with liberals and atheists to demean it and the Founding Fathers. For example, in one video he prepared against me and the Founding Fathers, he specifically addressed the John Adams letter we posted, claiming:
Barton makes it appear as if John Adams was speaking favorably about the Holy Ghost in a letter he wrote to Benjamin Rush. In reality, Adams was mocking the idea of “Holy Ghost authority” and called Christians “dupes” for believing in it. 3
Pinto concludes:
In truth, the letter Barton is presenting provides some of the most damning evidence found anywhere, and is consistent with many of the writings of the Revolutionaries, proving their contempt for Bible-based Christianity. In this letter, John Adams was not speaking in approval of the Holy Ghost, but was rather mocking the idea of it and of the faith of true Christians. . . . Adams did not believe the Holy Ghost was real, and he spoke about it in what can only be called insulting and irreverent terms. 4
Normally, we simply ignore these types of absurd claims, for we believe that the truth speaks for itself and that it will always eventually prevail. In fact, this is why we post so many original and hand-written Founding documents and letters online – we want individuals to see and read them for themselves to be personally aware of what is and is not true. It is important to follow the model praised by the Apostle Paul in Acts 17:11: always check original sources to establish truth. This is why we heavily document quotes and facts back to original sources – such as our best-selling book Original Intent: it contains some 1,700 footnotes, the vast majority of which are dated to primary-source documents published while the Founders were still alive.

(By the way, a notable ACLU attorney decided he would disprove our thesis that the Founding Fathers were largely Christian. He therefore took Original Intent and undertook a project to expose what he considered to be its falsehoods; he went back and checked our quotes against the original sources cited in the book. At the end of his research, he concluded that we had understated the faith of the Founders – that there was actually much more evidence to support their Christian faith than even what we had cited. This ACLU attorney was completely converted and went on to become an eminent court of appeals judge – all because he followed Paul’s model of Acts 17:11 and checked the evidence for himself. We have numerous similar testimonials of the dramatic change that has occurred in individuals who investigated the original facts for themselves.)

So although we typically do not respond to critics such as Pinto, in this case, his videos have confused many Christians who have respectfully asked us to help them sort out the facts and discern the truth. Hence we have chosen to address Pinto’s patently false claims about John Adams.

Significantly, Pinto reached his conclusions that John Adams was mocking the Holy Spirit only by ignoring, omitting, or not understanding lengthy and important segments of Adams’ letter (which is why we posted the complete letter online: to make it much harder for individuals to twist and distort its true meaning). When the segments that Pinto ignored or did not understand are returned to the letter, it becomes obvious that his premises have been infected with three of the five historical malpractices that characterize the current study of history: Modernism, Minimalism, and Deconstructionism (the other two of the five are Poststructuralism and Academic Collectivism, which Pinto also uses in other areas of his videos).

Modernism is the practice of analyzing historical incidents and persons as if they lived now rather than in the past. Modernism separates history from its context and setting – a practice that regularly produces flawed conclusions.

No comments: