28 Nov Were the Founding Fathers Christians?
What Did the Founding Fathers Believe?
Throughout the centuries, the religion and beliefs of the Founding Fathers have been hot topics. There are arguments that the founders were Deists, but there are also thorough records and documentation that many of them were Christians or, at the very least, valued Christian principles.
What did the Founding Fathers believe? Seven individuals are considered the Founding Fathers of the United States of America; George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison. In correspondences, speeches, and other documents, there is proof that most of these men believed in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. While some were more devout than others, all had respect and admiration for the principles found throughout the Bible and believed that such principles played a crucial role in the success of the American nation.
In this article, I will share personal quotes from each of the founders that demonstrate their thoughts and beliefs concerning God and Christianity. Keep reading to dive deeply into the Founding Fathers’ minds and religious beliefs!
Was George Washington a Christian?
Out of all the Founding Fathers, George Washington played perhaps the most crucial role in the start of our country. Not only was he the General of the Continental Army that defeated British Forces, but he was also the first president. He set the tone for protecting liberties and uniting the colonies under one unifying country.
George Washington appears to be the most devout Christian out of all the Founding Fathers, and he left no question about what he believed and what principles governed his life. By keeping descriptive diaries, prayer journals, and correspondence, today, we can see the kind of Christian George Washington was behind closed doors. Here are just a few quotes from letters and speeches that prove his religious beliefs:
“Bless, O Lord, the whole race of mankind, and let the world be filled with the knowledge of Thee and Thy son, Jesus Christ. Bless my family, kindred, friends, and country, be our God and guide this day and forever for His sake, who lay down in the grave and arose again for us, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
“Almighty and eternal Lord God, the great Creator of heaven and earth, and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; look down from heaven in pity and compassion upon me thy servant, who humbly prostrate myself before thee.”
“Oh, eternal and everlasting God, direct my thoughts, words, and work. Wash away my sins in the immaculate blood of the Lamb and purge my heart by Thy Holy Spirit. Daily, frame me more and more in the likeness of Thy son, Jesus Christ, that living in Thy fear, and dying in Thy favor, I may in thy appointed time obtain the resurrection of the justified unto eternal life. Bless, O Lord, the whole race of mankind and let the world be filled with the knowledge of Thee and Thy son, Jesus Christ.”
In these prayers, Washington acknowledges the resurrection of Jesus and the cleansing of sin. Not only does he pray for himself, but he also prays that all of mankind would come to the knowledge of Jesus. George Washington was an imperfect man, just as we are; but he daily lived to become more and more like Jesus!
Was Thomas Jefferson a Christian?
Thomas Jefferson is best known as the author of the Declaration of Independence and the third president of the United States of America. When it comes to determining his spiritual beliefs, Jefferson is a bit more difficult to read. He seemed to have a real issue with the religious institutions and the twisting and perverting of the gospel in which many Christian denominations involved themselves. Here are a few quotes from him that show his true heart on the matter:
“Had the doctrines of Jesus been preached always as pure as they came from his lips, the whole civilized world would now have been Christians.”
“To the corruption of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; & believing he never claimed any other.”
In one of these quotes, Thomas Jefferson states that he was a Christian in its truest form. That being said, he understood how the church had corrupted teachings and had taken advantage of people over time; perhaps this is why he was such a proponent of religious freedom. He was well-versed in how poorly people fared when an established religion was pressed upon people. He was also well-versed in how powerful and valuable true and unadulterated biblical principles were to governments, society, families, and individuals.
Was John Adams a Christian?
John Adams played a vital role in America’s independence, not on the war front, but by serving as a diplomat and a delegate in both Continental Congresses. He was also the 2nd president of the United States.
John Adams was indeed a Christian; this is evident in a few quotes from him saying:
“We Recognize No Sovereign but God, and no King but Jesus!”
“Conclude not from all this that I have renounced the Christian religion. . . . Far from it. I see in every page something to recommend Christianity in its purity, and something to discredit its corruptions. . . . The ten commandments and the sermon on the mount contain my religion.”
John Adams had big shoes to fill when he became president. George Washington had won freedom for the colonies and managed to nurture, protect, and guide a nation still in the making.
By the time John Adams had become president, divisions and parties had entered the system. He understood both the need and the dangers of both sides. Still, his determination to stay neutral and dedicated to foundational principles probably cost him a second term as president. Here is a quote that shows his understanding of how God wanted government:
“Now I will avow, that I then believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God; and that those principles of liberty are as unalterable as human nature and our terrestrial, mundane system.”
Was Benjamin Franklin a Christian?
Benjamin Franklin was a colorful and interesting character; he was an entrepreneur, inventor, scientist, and diplomat. He established the first public library in America and created the first American postal service. But what were his beliefs?
We can not honestly know Benjamin Franklin’s heart, having some quotes from him recognizing and praying to God while others question that belief. Here is one prayer from his autobiography, published in 1789:
“O powerful goodness! Bountiful Father! Merciful Guide! Increase in me that wisdom which discovers my truest interest. Strengthen my resolution to perform what that wisdom dictates. Accept my kind offices to thy other children as the only return in my power for thy continual favours to me.”
While Benjamin Franklin did seem to believe in a god, it’s not certain if he accepted Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior. Here are some quotes that show his beliefs about God:
“I never doubted, for instance, the existence of the Deity; that he made the world, and governed it by his Providence; that the most acceptable service of God was the doing good to man; that our souls are immortal; and that all crime will be punished, and virtue rewarded, either here or hereafter. These I esteemed the essentials of every religion; and, being to be found in all the religions we had in our country, I respected them all, though with different degrees of respect, as I found them more or less mixed with other articles, which without any tendency to inspire, promote, or confirm morality, served principally to divide us, and make us unfriendly to one another.”
“My parents had early given me religious impressions, and brought me through my childhood piously in the Dissenting way. But I was scarce fifteen, when, after doubting by turns of several points, as I found them disputed in the different books I read, I began to doubt of Revelation itself. Some books against Deism fell into my hands; they were said to be the substance of sermons preached at Boyle’s Lectures. It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist.”
That said, Franklin understood faith and religion’s role in society. Close to his death, he said:
“If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be if without it?”
It is for this reason he took part in establishing a government that followed godly principles. He understood that society without God would run rampant.
Was Alexander Hamilton a Christian?
A war hero and skilled politician, Alexander Hamilton is the most well-known Founding Father, thanks to pop culture! Mentored by George Washington, Hamilton was ambitious in all that he did, creating the first American Bank, serving as inspector general to the military, and creating the Federalist Political Party. Although, this characteristic ultimately led him to the infamous duel with Aaron Burr, which resulted in Hamilton’s death.
Alexander Hamilton was a politician through and through, but he was also a Christian! Here are some quotes that prove Hamilton’s beliefs:
“I have a tender reliance on the mercy of the Almighty, through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am a sinner. I look to Him for mercy; pray for me.”
“I have carefully examined the evidences of the Christian religion, and if I was sitting as a juror upon its authenticity I would unhesitatingly give my verdict in its favor. I can prove its truth as clearly as any proposition ever submitted to the mind of man.”
Was John Jay a Christian?
John Jay is perhaps the least-known Founding Father. He was a delegate, diplomat, abolitionist, and most well-known as the first Supreme Court Justice. When it comes to his religious beliefs, knowing that John Jay was the vice president of the American Bible Society should settle any question.
John Jay was a strong Christian who lived by his morals. While resources of John Jay’s aren’t as numerous as the other founders, it is easy to find out what he thought of the Word of God and Christian principles:
“The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the Word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and the next.”
“Providence has given to our people the choice of their ruler, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”
Was James Madison a Christian?
Without James Madison, our government may not have upheld and protected fundamental human rights. He was known as the youngest…and perhaps most shy…delegate of the Continental Congress. Known as the Founder of the Constitution, James Madison wrote the first ten amendments of the Constitution, also known as the Bill of Rights. He was also the fourth president of the United States.
James Madison was indeed a Christian. He is known as saying:
“Cursed be all that learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ.”
James Madison wanted to create a country that wasn’t like any other. He had heard of other countries falling apart due to immorality and government overreach. Where did he draw his inspiration? This quote can shed some light on this question:
“The belief in a God All Powerful wise and good, is so essential to the moral order of the world and to the happiness of man, that arguments which enforce it cannot be drawn from too many sources nor adapted with too much solicitude to the different characters and capacities to be impressed with it.”
It has been over 240 years since the Founding Fathers lived and framed the country. Over time, their reputations and beliefs have been altered or changed to meet a certain narrative. It’s important to know where these men found the principles they used to shape the nation so that we can work implement their vision for one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
To learn more about the Founding Fathers and what they believed, check out my article What Did the Founding Fathers Say About Liberty.