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George Washington's Sacred Fire
Providence Forum Press / 2006 / Paperback
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Written by Peter Lillback president of Westminster Theological Seminary, and requiring more than 15 years to research and write, Lillback in George Washington's Sacred Fire directly challenges the claims of revisionist historians that George Washington was a dedicated deist.
Since the 1930's the belief that Washington was a dedicated Christian has been largely out of vogue among colonial era and presidential scholars. This was in large part the accomplishment of one book, a book that often failed to cite Washington's work were necessary, and patently ignored or lied about items in Washington's writings and correspondence indicating a deep belief in the Christian faith.
Lillback aims to set the record straight by providing a detailed examination of Washington's letters and writings, as well as Washington's historic milieu. Lillback shows that much of what has been used to justify the argument of Washington as deist is rooted in a poor understanding of his historical context, and what Washington himself did and wrote.
The argument is by no means simple, as Lillback often chides modern Christians who seem to want to make Washington a 21st Century Evangelical. But most of what Lillback has to say goes against secular scholars who want to make Washington in their own image. Lillback's book should shift the status quo, and allow Washington to be presented---accurately--as an 18th Century Anglican gentleman who tended often to his duties as a church going man---and in Lillback's view as an orthodox, Trinitarian Christian.
The argument is easier to make than one might first suppose, but it does require nuance especially in understanding Washington according to the way he understand himself, the differences between "hard" deism and "soft" deism, as well as trying to define just what makes someone "Christian".
At over 1200 pages, including over 500 pages of indices and footnotes, George Washington's Sacred Fire is obviously exhaustive. But evidence requires argumentation to understand it appropriately and Lillback does a masterful job of that here. Any student of history, not to mention American History should read this book.
An enlightening, engaging and long overdue correction of the falsehood that Washington lacked faith.
-Rodney Stark, Baylor University
George Washington, the uniquely venerated Founding Father of our nation, valiant warrior of the American Revolution, and devoted family man has been the subject of countless writings by scholars and storytellers alike. What sets George Washingtons Sacred Fire apart from all previous literary works on this man for the ages, is the exhaustive fifteen years of Dr. Peter Lillbacks research, revealing a world icon driven by the highest of ideals, not the least of which was his genuine Christian faith.
Dr. Lillback paints a picture of a man, who, faced with unprecedented challenges and circumstances, ultimately drew upon his persistent qualities of character - honesty, justice, equity, perseverance, piety, forgiveness, humility, and servant leadership, to become one of the most revered figures in world history.
A vast number of books on George Washington are characterized by anecdotal recountings and factually unsubstantiated conclusions that, up to now, few have strived to correct. However, George Washingtons own writings, journals, letters, manuscripts, and those of his closest family and confidants reveal the truth of this awe-inspiring role model for all generations.
George Washington set the cornerstone for what would become one of the most prosperous, free nations in the history of civilization. "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports," he said in his farewell address. Through this book, Dr. Lillback, assisted by Jerry Newcombe, reveals to the reader a highly inspirational image of General and President George Washington.
An enlightening, engaging, and long overdue correction of the falsehood that Washington lacked faith.
Dr. Lillback burries the myth that Washington was an unbeliever - at most a "deist" - under an avalanche of facts.
--Robert P. George
Secular historians ignore George Washington's ward Nelly Custis, who wrote that doubting his Christian faith was as absurd as doubting his patriotism. But they cannot ignore this mountain of evidence suggesting Washington's religion was not Deism, but just the sort of low-church Anglicanism one would expect in an 18th century Virginia gentleman. His "sacred fire" lit America's path toward civil and religious liberty.
--Walter A. McDougall
Pulitzer Prize Winning Author
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