“I am a Christian,” wrote Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Benjamin Rush.
To the corruptions of Christianity I am, indeed, opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; and believing he never claimed any other.
Was Jefferson a Christian? Discuss.
You may say, “It depends on what you mean by ‘Christian’,” but it doesn’t. Was Jefferson a Christian? The truth depends on historical facts about Jefferson and what he believed, not on contemporary facts about me and what I had in mind when I asked the question.
The meaning of a word depends on the conventions that govern its use.
I can use the word ‘Christian’ in an unconventional sense. But if I do, then until and unless my non-standard use of the word catches on and itself becomes part of the norm, there is a mismatch between what I say and what I mean. To take a different example, when Ayn Rand said that selfishness is a virtue, she did not mean what she said. (She said that selfishness is a virtue. But it’s not.) She did, however, say what she meant. (She meant that self-interest is a virtue. And it is.)
The conventions which govern our use of the word ‘Christian’ allow for more than one distinct sense of the word. For example, there are nominal Christians, cultural Christians, liberal Christians, fundamentalist Christians, practising Christians, denominational Christians, non-denominational Christians, and so on. But the conventions which govern our use of the word ‘Christian’ also determine a primary sense of the word.
Was Jefferson a real Christian? Discuss.
11 thoughts on “I am a Christian”
It is my opinion that 18th cent Deism was an ‘extremist’ form of Protestantism that sprung from the Reformation. (The rejection of Established religion and Priestcraft) Even so this does not make them Christians as St Paul would define the Term because Salvation requires Faith in the truth of the Gospel, and the miracle of *The Resurrection of Christ* is a central truth which must be believed.
“Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God”… this is a theistic truth, that makes doubting the trustworthiness of the scriptures *a Terminal Disease* Yet the truth is you only must believe the Gospel of the grace of God to be saved… it is not essential that you believe for eg that Elijah went to heaven riding a flaming Chariot. Yet it is difficult to understand why anyone would believe that Christ rose from the dead yet refuse to believe all the other miracles of the scriptures. Thus if you don’t trust the Holiness of the Bible, then why would you believe the Gospel?
As a Libertarian, I respect Jefferson’s right to attest the to the fact that he considers himself a Christian. Equality of Rights means We have the liberty to disagree about what it means to be a Christian and free to rigorously debate it. That is what Religious liberty is really all about, not simply about ‘tolerance’, but also about the right to peacefully express your personal opinions whether popular or not. It would be interesting to get a copy of Jeffersons ‘Sanitized’ New Testament, so that we could gleen what Jefferson really thought about it, how much ‘Slash and Burn’ he employed, and what ‘Remnants’ of Christianity he deemed to be the ‘Unperverted ‘Truth’. ?
Just trying to work out what sort of Christian I am..lol..?
Though I find it hard to believe some parts of the bible..and other parts I totally believe in. But the parts I find hard to believe…I believe in my heart in faith..of the holiness of the bible and gods word as the total truth.
Tim, you make too many good points.
I was hoping the discussion would head in this general direction. What we can try to come up with is a list of necessary and sufficient conditions for the application of the term ‘Christian’ (in its primary sense).
I have to agree with you that Jefferson was not a real Christian. (But he was a real hero, that’s way beyond doubt.)
Necessary conditions. You must
(1) Believe that Jesus was divine (“the Son of God”)
(2) Believe that God raised him from the dead (“the Resurrection”)
(3) Believe that Jesus will return (“the Second Coming”)
(4) Pledge your allegiance to Jesus (“Jesus is Lord!”)
And so on.
Not necessary conditions. You may
(5) Believe that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary.
(6) Believe that Jesus was a direct descendant of David on his father’s side.
(7) Believe that the Bible is the Word of God from cover to cover.
(8) Believe in the Trinity.
(9) Believe that you have free will.
And so on.
Christianity is a Walk Gerard, not a destination. It is a Living thing, thus we ought to be in a state of flux/ change/ growth/ purification. Not to be so would be Sad.
If you know of any Liberal minded Christians (I mean Politically Liberal… they can be religious Zealots in every other sence) please recruit them to this new Think tank (and to our Blog) We need to get hundreds/ thousands of Christians on board to become a formidable Christian Libertarian army. Then we can attempt to swing political change towards establishment of a libertarian free society of self reliance , by which Christian virtues prosper and are valued. Welcome Brother! Thankyou.
Sadly Jefferson did deleate all references to the Resurection from his ‘New Testament’. This means he denied everything that Paul considered essential.
“And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” 1Cor15vs14.
He [Abraham] staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded, that what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed unto him for righteousness.
Now it was not written for his sake, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our lord from the dead: who was delivered fo our offences, and was raised again for our justification. (Rom 4vs 20-25)
I must add that Ironically Jefferson may truly be regarded as a ‘Disciple of Christ’! Because The Resurrection was not a part of Christ’s Kingdom Gospel to the Jews.
Yet *Christians* are not Jewish disciples of Christ. They are mainly *Gentile Disciples of St Paul* whom believe his *Gospel of the Grace of God* whereby he revealed the hidden mystery that Christ’s Death, burial, and resurrection were all part of God’s Plan to save mankind from damnation.
This point is quite well highlighted by the way Jefferson chose to focus upon the moral teachings of Christ, rather than the miraculous claims of St Paul.
Jefferson totally forsook the whole teaching of St Paul.
Jefferson *Wrongly Divided the Bible*
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God; a workman that needeth not to be ashamed; *Rightly dividing* the word of truth. (2Tim2vs15 St Paul)
Jefferson was a deceiver.
The Jefferson bible is all you need to confirm he was not nor ever shall be a Christian, he’s in hell now so he knows much better now, too bad he had to go there seemed like a partly likeable chap but that’s how it is, we bad people get to go to heaven and what this world consider good people go to hell because they have huge problems with realizing they are dirty rotten sinners. Much easier for someone that knows he’s a dirty rotten sinner to be saved, you don’t have that roadblock to pass.
You have it in the parable with the pharisée and the publican, the self righteous pharisée and the rotten tax collecting publican (the IRS).
The pharisée could not come to terms with himself being a sinner, the taxcollector knew it and smote upon his breast and asked God to have mercy on him, a sinner.
Jesus tells us the publican was the one being justified rather than the self righteous pharisée that couldn’t see he was a dirty rotten sinner like the rest of us.
Jefferson is in Hades (the grave).
I concur with your general position Antisocialist. Jefferson probably is in Hell because he rejected the resurection of Christ. It is a Tragic reality that Deism was an extreme Kneejerk reaction to Catholic Priestcraft… and took the ‘Protest’ way too far. Many so-called Christians today are not really Christians at all but Deists… they too have rejected the authority of scripture and the promises of God, and heed the words of ‘Scholars’…and ‘scientists’, and ‘Rationalists’ whom are the new Priests of Materialism… the Guru’s of socalled ‘Christian Deists’… believers in Evolution,…in materialism, … doubters of Hell, … giving ‘absolution’ to homosexuals, etc. They Know not God.