Friday, June 6, 2008

Reviewing the Testimonies of the Reverends Wilson and Abercrombie

This blog post has moved! It's now on my own website, here:

Reviewing the Testimonies of the Reverends Wilson and Abercrombie

14 Comments:

Anonymous said...

Abercrombie had said, "but, Sir, I cannot consider any man as a real Christian who uniformly disregards an ordinance so solemnly enjoined by the divine Author of our holy religion, and considered as a channel of divine grace." WHY does no one ever question Abercrombie and his belief that the Eucharist makes a Christian? Where the heck is that in the Bible? Why is it that Washington's faith is picked apart?! Abercrombie is the real scoundrel here. Abercrombie might as well be saying, "Washington doesn't participate in the Eucharist ceremony that I believe one must do to be called a Christian."

If I was a member of this church, I, a Christian, would have walked out as well, and not returned. Jesus never established the Eucharist, with its babylonian magic spells in the Episcopal and Catholic churches.

And partaking of this heretical ritual does not make one a Christian! Nor does abstaining not make one a Christian! Ugh!

Go, Washington, go!

Hercules Mulligan said...

Hi Anonymous. Welcome to my blog, and thanks so much for commenting.

WHY does no one ever question Abercrombie and his belief that the Eucharist makes a Christian? Where the heck is that in the Bible?

GOOD question. I think this shows how many flawed assumptions people bring (and in some cases, stubbornly cling to) into investigating this issue.

People may make that assumption for two reasons: either because they really believe that taking communion is an essential part of being a Christian, or because that is the easiest argument to use to "prove" that Washington couldn't have been a Christian. The argument from silence is nothing solid, and yet this is all they really have to work with if they want to "prove" that Washington was an unbeliever. So they operate on the presuppositions of the religious (but not necessarily Christian) group, in order to make these religious people believe their argument that Washington was not a Christian. They then go to other Christians and say, "Look! Here are evangelical, orthodox scholars who believe Washington wasn't a Christian!" Whoop-dee-doo. That doesn't prove anything.

And partaking of this heretical ritual does not make one a Christian! Nor does abstaining not make one a Christian! Ugh!

Exactly! This constitutes my own frustration with discussing the "communion issue." It proves nothing aye or nay; but those who belief Washington was an unbeliever have very little else to work with, so it seems they keep regurgitating this one. Sigh.

I agree with you completely. Thanks for leaving your comment.

Jonathan said...

And partaking of this heretical ritual does not make one a Christian! Nor does abstaining not make one a Christian! Ugh!

Ugh! If this is such a heretical ritual then why was GW a member of this Church!?! It's not as though he didn't have any options. There were far more Presbyterian or Baptists Churches than Unitarian Churches from which GW to choose if he really were an orthodox Christian who simply didn't believe in the heretical act of "taking communion" which by the way the Bible commands one to do in the Last Supper!

Hercules Mulligan said...

Hi Jon. I don't know how often you plan to leave comments here, but since you bring up the objection, I will answer it.

Ugh! If this is such a heretical ritual then why was GW a member of this Church!?! It's not as though he didn't have any options.

Wrong; Washington didn't have any options. In order to serve his state in public office, one was obligated to be a member of the Anglican Church. So, Washington didn't really have a choice.

I am not debating whether or not Washington was a good Anglican. One can be a good Christian without being a good Anglican, or a good member of any denomination. I am not trying to establish that, because perfectly fitting in a particular denomination is not necessary for one to be truly orthodox. Washington may have questioned his own denomination; but I have no evidence that he questioned the Bible. If anything, he said it was the revealed word of God, and he made no exception to that rule.

"the Bible commands one to do [take communion] in the Last Supper!"

If so, than Washington would not be disobeying the Bible; because the Catholic/Anglican version is more pagan than biblical.

Also, the Bible does not say that you must take communion in order to be a Christian. All Jesus said was to do it in remembrance of Him, and His covenant.

Jonathan said...

I'm not going to bug you with comments. I responded in a long post on my blogs. You are more than welcome to respond on American Creation or any of my blogs or use it as a dropping off point for your next post on your blogs.

Cheers,

JR

jimmiraybob said...

So, what do you think it says of the character and integrity, not to mention the Christianity, of the anointed father of our nation that he would remain silent on such a "heresy" as the act of communion while accommodating his wife in the act without so much as a hint of objection?

With eternal damnation on the line do you really think that he would have remained completely silent on such a weighty matter of conscience? Surely a real Christian would come to the aid of loved ones and friends. Is there something in the record that has been missed by so many?

In my humble opinion this would not reflect well on either his character and integrity or his Christianity.

Hercules Mulligan said...

Hello Jimmiraybob. Thanks for your comment.

So, what do you think it says of the character and integrity, not to mention the Christianity, of the anointed father of our nation that he would remain silent on such a "heresy" as the act of communion while accommodating his wife in the act without so much as a hint of objection?

I am not asserting positively that Washington thought that the Anglican beliefs concerning the communion were the reason he abstained from it. He may have disagreed with them, but that is only a possibility.

Perhaps a more significant reason for not taking communion would be to avoid becoming officially affiliated with a particular denomination, which is exactly what Washington (who was always urging unity among the various Christian denominations) would have done.

I don't think Washington believed that he needed to take communion in order to receive the grace of God, and I don't think he believed in something as superstitious as transubstantiation. However, Washington probably did not think that communion was a terribly big deal; this would explain why he never became a communicant (at least according to Abercrombie's testimony), and why he never shunned his friends and his wife from participating in it themselves. Knowing Martha Washington, she was most likely doing what she was doing as unto God, and not unto her Anglican bishop. And since Washington believed that religious matters were a matter between one's own conscience and God, he seems to have respected her custom.

With eternal damnation on the line do you really think that he would have remained completely silent on such a weighty matter of conscience? Surely a real Christian would come to the aid of loved ones and friends. Is there something in the record that has been missed by so many?

I don't know for sure that people face eternal damnation for taking communion, under any forms. I also don't know if Mrs. Washington believed in transubstantiation, etc., herself either -- was she really that blind? Again, Washington may not have thought communion a big deal, and so IF he kept silent (I am not aware of any records, but I may have missed something), this may have been the reason.

In my humble opinion this would not reflect well on either his character and integrity or his Christianity.

Washington did not always openly express what he believed, especially if the issue was somewhat controversial; his friends and observers noted how he always avoided speaking about himself, and how reserved he was on his opinions on topics of nearly every kind -- he had a very reserved and humble character.

If he had serious reservations about the communion (he may have had them or he may not have had them), he probably would have expressed them to his wife, privately. But I am not aware of any record, or any circumstantial evidence (again, I may be ignorant in this) that indicates this.

It seems to me, based upon what I know, that Washington may not have agreed with the Anglican view of communion. But he may not have thought communion as such a big deal, and therefore did not see it as affecting salvation or damnation either way. So I don't think that his silence, either way, affects his Christianity, or his integrity. Washington was clearly a man of piety and integrity.

Washington may have had an opinion of communion, similar to the opinion the Apostle Paul had of circumcision:

"For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails anything, but faith working through love" (Galatians 5:6, NKJV)

And again,

"For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation" (Galatians 6:15, NKJV)

Washington's religious creed in this matter may have been simply, "For in Christ Jesus, neither communion nor no communion avails anything [i. e., affects my salvation], but faith working through love." Washington's motto "Deeds, not Words," seems to indicate that he bore this mindset in some way; in other words, he believed that God placed priority on righteous conduct, not on religious forms and professions.

Thanks for asking this question. I hope that my lengthy reply satisfactorily answered.

Our Founding Truth said...

Hey Herc,

Yeah, he could have walked out on communion because he didn't like the denomination, but, is that what Christians do? I don't know any Christian that would walk out of communion, except maybe a catholic one, but, not a protestant one.

However, you may be right. I still don't know.

your obedient servant

OTF

jimmiraybob said...

Thanks for your response. I think very highly of both Washington's character and integrity and agree that if he felt communion to be harmful that he most certainly would have expressed that sentiment in some way and, given the nature of the subject, that some shred of evidence would have survived. That he respected the rights of conscience of others certainly didn't commit him to silence even if he was reluctant to express himself for the public record.

Since there is such a solid wall between his civic personae and any religious belief that he may have held in private I don't make any attempt to assign views to fit my opinion. I agree whole heartedly that he was a man that expressed civic virtue through action - a leader in deed not word. And there's no question that at the time of the Enlightenment that the Revolutionary leaders were informed by Orthodox Christian and secular rational philosophical ideas. Whether his selfless virtue is a result of Christian faith or an inner non-religious personal resolve or both I leave to those who have more time for deliberation.

Again, thanks for your thoughtful reply.

Hercules Mulligan said...

Hi OFT. Thanks for commenting.

Yeah, he could have walked out on communion because he didn't like the denomination, but, is that what Christians do?

Maybe, but then again, maybe not. It is very difficult to judge intentions on this matter, which is why I prefer to avoid the communion issue when discussing Washington's faith -- or indeed, anyone's faith. Unless there is a stated motive for taking or abstaining from it, any conclusion on motive is very inconclusive -- it doesn't prove or disprove one's Christianity.

The only reason I addressed it in the above post was merely to demonstrate that the motive of skepticism is not the explanation that most likely fits all the pieces of the puzzle together. Washington was a man of great piety and godly fear; his writings show that he believed himself to be a Christian, and even Abercrombie believed that Washington thought himself a Christian by his faithful attendance to a Christian church.

From the knowledge that I have gained of Washington's own sentiments, religious and other (from his own writings), I think that the explanation that he wanted to avoid an official attachment to a particular denomination is more likely the reason for his abstinence, AND why he never seemed to have disapproved of, say, his wife's participation. He seemed to think that the communion wasn't a big deal as far as salvation went, which (from my knowledge of the Bible), is a justified belief.

I don't know any Christian that would walk out of communion, except maybe a catholic one, but, not a protestant one.

I am not an expert on Catholic and Anglican denominations, but I think their traditions on communion are quite the same. The more I learn about the two of them, I find that original British Anglicanism (and Abercrombie was a tory sympathizer during the Revolution, so his religious beliefs were very likely along the British-Anglican line) has really very little difference from the Roman Catholic denomination -- the only exception being that the English monarch, and not the Romish pope, is viewed as the head of the Anglican church. But everything else in their doctrine is very similar. So, Catholic and Anglican communion would probably be very similar.

I hope that answers the matter sufficiently.

God bless you.

Hercules Mulligan said...

Hi Jimmiraybob. Thanks for your reply.

I think very highly of both Washington's character and integrity and agree that if he felt communion to be harmful that he most certainly would have expressed that sentiment in some way and, given the nature of the subject, that some shred of evidence would have survived.

You are absolutely right. I think so, too.

That he respected the rights of conscience of others certainly didn't commit him to silence even if he was reluctant to express himself for the public record.

I think you are right here, too. The more I learn about Washington, the more I am impressed by his sense of right and truth I think that if he really thought that communion (at least in the contorted manner commonly observed in the Catholic and Anglican denominations) was harmful, he would have said something.

What I was trying to say was, that he probably did not think communion to be an extremely weighty matter when it came to salvation, either for good or for worse. I apologize if my explanation was unclear on that; I was writing as I thought things through, and my writing was somewhat hurried for the moment.

As I just wrote in my response to "Our Founding Truth," I think that the most probable explanation for Washington's not being a communicant, and for apparently remaining silent on the subject, indicate that he wanted to avoid becoming attached to a particular denomination -- he wanted to act, and be recognized, as a Christian, not an Anglican, or a Presbyterian, Methodist, Congregationalist, etc. Since he believed that religion was between a man and his God, he most likely thought that he could serve God better (and unite all Christians better by his example) by simply obeying the Scriptures, and not binding himself by the rites and customs of a particular denomination. However, since he knew (and the Scriptures demonstrate) that a man must be in fellowship with a body of fellow-believers, he faithfully attended church whenever possible.

Since there is such a solid wall between his civic personae and any religious belief that he may have held in private I don't make any attempt to assign views to fit my opinion.

I am not sure exactly what you mean by this statement, but I do notice that Washington's public speeches and writings, and not just his private correspondence, show a deep reverence for God and His Word. Washington was careful not to flout his religious beliefs in public, because he believed that such actions were hypocritical -- not because he was afraid that the public might suspect his orthodoxy.

And there's no question that at the time of the Enlightenment that the Revolutionary leaders were informed by Orthodox Christian and secular rational philosophical ideas.

Interesting comment. Yes, the Founders were influenced by the Enlightenment thinkers, but what influenced the Enlightenment thinkers, and the Founders' choice of which philosophy of which thinker to adopt (the Founders didn't blindly embrace all of the Enlightenment doctrine; they agreed with certain philosophers and disagreed with others -- what was the standard of their rejection and acceptance?) I think that the manner in which the Founders were influenced by the Enlightenment has been greatly distorted, however. To get an idea of the truth behind the matter, however, I would recommend for your perusal The Origins of American Constitutionalism by Donald S. Lutz, a professor who spent 20 years trying to discover the most predominant influence on the Founding. I would also recommend perusing the blog archives of the blog Our Founding Truth, which presents some very "enlightening" portions of writing from the Enlightenment thinkers, and shows that they viewed both Scripture and reason as being authorities for discovering truth. This post about John Locke's trinitarian theology is rather interesting.

Well, my response to your very reflective one (for which I thank you) is now rather lengthy. I hope that it is satisfactory, and I hope that you continue to visit my blogs and leave your thoughts at your own convenience.

jimmiraybob said...

I followed the link provided to Our Founding Truth. And would like to follow up with a couple of observations.

From the post: That the people choose the King, implies consent of the governed; the people's superiority is in Proverbs 14:28:

"In the multitude of people is the king's honour: but in the want of people is the destruction of the prince."

The want of people is obviously their consent, since the people have the power to remove a King.



The tricky thing about using quotes, especially biblical translations, is in understanding the quote. To that end I think this web site is a help. What is "obvious" to the author of the above passage isn't so obvious to others that have translated the original to mean a lack or dearth of people as being the rulers ruin. This is not so good for the credibility of the author pertaining to Biblical understanding.

I continued reading until I came to this:

Like I've said before, on my blog, the American Revolution, and the Founding Fathers' formation of our country had absolutely nothing to do with enlightenment philosophy...

This is an absolutely incredible statement, and by incredible I do mean completely without credible foundation. Strike two. If there's any merit to that post it won't be me that teases it from among the stinkers.

This is a good example of an author trying desperately to make the "evidence" fit his/her own opinion/understanding - and to completely dismiss Enlightenment influence is either dishonest or thoroughly ignorant of the matter.

On the other hand, the learned views of Donald Lutz look more promising. To that end I would also recommend Bernard Bailyn's The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. It's been on my re-read shelf for about 20 years - along with the stack of new reads. If only people would stop writing and publishing for a couple of years I might get caught up.

Thanks again for taking the time to respond.

Regards

Hercules Mulligan said...

Hi Jimmiraybob.

I think your interpretation of the Proverbs 14:28 passage is more consistent with its context, but I don't think the blogger intentionally mis-defined "want." The version he was quoting from is the King James Version, and to the modern speaker of English, many times the words, or the use of them, has grown somewhat obsolete. Today, we often translate as "desire," as the blogger did; we do not often associate that word with "lack" as the King James Version apparently does.

When OFT said "the American Revolution, and the Founding Fathers' formation of our country had absolutely nothing to do with enlightenment philosophy," I think he was speaking of SECULAR HUMANISM in the Enlightenment. He was not saying that thinkers of the Enlightenment had no influence on our Founders -- the very subject matter of his blog and his investigation into people like Locke and Montesquieu demonstrates my point.

I linked to the blog, because it presents some very good quotations from the Enlightenment thinkers themselves, which show that the Scriptures were often their authority (see, for instance, the post I linked to about John Locke).
Of course, not all of the Enlightenment thinkers (like Voltaire and Rousseau and Hume) were believers, but the philosophers who had more influence over the Founders were Christians (or at least religious theists) who held the Bible in high regard. I wanted to present the blog Our Founding Truth so that you could see their quotations for yourself.

The book you linked to sounds interesting. I have heard of it, but I have never had the opportunity to read it. I totally sympathize with you in having a huge amount to read!

Hope that the book by Lutz is not too inconvenient an addition to your stack! But reading it will certainly be worth it.

Talk to you later.

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