In the Fall of 2009, I moved from Washington, D.C. to Charlottesville, Virginia. I had been with the same company my entire time in Washington, D.C. It became clear to me early in 2009 that it was time to leave this job. As I prayed about what to do next, I heard clearly from the Lord that I should move to Charlottesville, VA. I had some concerns about this move because I did not think there would be as many jobs that suited my skills in Charlottesville as there were in Washington, D.C. Given my repeated experience with the Lord and His ability to lead me and give me work where ever He led, I knew it was time to move and find out what God had in mind after I arrived. So, I moved.
After everything was packed, the moving truck was loaded and moving down the highway I started thinking about my move. I reflected a little bit on my time in the Washington, D.C. area remembering what God had spoken when I got there in pointing out George Washington to me. In part, this led me to the question for the Lord, “Why I am I moving to Charlottesville?”. Almost immediately, the Lord answered in my heart, “Thomas Jefferson”. This time, my reaction was not “Huh?” as it had been before. I immediately knew there was an national idol connected to Thomas Jefferson. I believe my first thoughts about what it was were pretty accurate. This idol is related to the “Progress of Man” and “Humanism”. Effectively, this is a man-centered idol which leads people astray from a healthy and dependent walk with God.
Jefferson was a self-taught genius who did things in many realms. He believed strongly in the principles of the Age of Enlightenment (i.e. the Age of Reason). He also believed strongly in man’s ability to better himself over the course of one life and across generations. He thought for himself and did not accept some of the norms of his time. As it related to religious matters his modus operandi (reason and logic apart from God) led him to conclude that Jesus was not divine. To Jefferson, Jesus was just a highly moral human being whose moral teachings should be applied by men. Jefferson felt strongly enough about this that he took the time to write His own version of the Bible which is now known as the Jefferson Bible.
Here is a quote from Jefferson about his Jefferson Bible which he wrote to a friend to explain what he did with the Jefferson Bible.
Among the sayings and discourses imputed to him (Jesus) by his biographers (Gospel Writers), I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence: and others again of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism, and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being.Excerpted Letter from Thomas Jefferson to William Short – this is from Jefferson’s official web site.
Whoa. In Jefferson’s mind Jesus was an excellent human being (one of, if not, the best) but using Jefferson’s power of reasoning alone in his human-centered existence he could not connect the moral teachings of Jesus with the miracles and other aspects of Jesus as divine.
Jefferson continues in his letter to explain what he did to create the Jefferson Bible.
(Note: there is no gap or other text between the quote above and what is next)
I separate therefore the gold from the dross; restore to him the former, and leave the latter to the stupidity of some, and roguery of others of his disciples. Of this band of dupes and impostors, Paul was the great Coryphaeus (top of the head), and first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus. These palpable interpolations and falsifications of his doctrines led me to try to sift them apartExcerpted Letter from Thomas Jefferson to William Short – this is from Jefferson’s official web site.
That’s right. Jefferson saw the disciples as stupid, roguish, dupes, imposters, corrupters, falsifiers. Paul being at the head and the worst of them. Jefferson had the solution. He separates the gold from the dross restoring to Jesus his moral teachings and throwing out anything else. The evidence is 100% clear. It is seen in the Jefferson Bible. Whatever Jefferson deemed an acceptable moral teaching was kept. Anything miraculous, mystical or divine was cut out. (For a little more see: History Channel article about Jefferson’s Bible)
This comes from the mind of a man who was only reliant on his own powers and abilities to reason and act. This is a mode of operation that happens apart from God. He was in support of a better society that was not subject to tyrannical rulers, but I believe he seeded something in America that unhealthy for believers in God through Jesus Christ.
In addition, Jefferson’s ideas led to the separation of church and state in our constitution through his authorship of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom. His desire to create a separation of church and state was because it was his way of trying to get society out from underneath the strong influence of those who he felt were deceivers and charlatans. He thought they were inappropriately using the Jesus that Jefferson believed in to corrupt society in various ways. Jefferson had a point. Church leadership throughout the ages has been corrupted over and over again. I agree with him to some extent, but I do not agree that they misrepresented the core identity of Jesus Christ as the true Son of God and also truly God himself. Jesus claims this divinity himself, so Jefferson truly wanted another Jesus than the one that believers in God through Jesus Christ know. Jesus said:
Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM!John 8:58 (LEB)
Jesus claimed the very name of God expressed in Exodus of the Old Testament for himself.
Thomas Jefferson’s personal beliefs about Jesus Christ do not in themselves form a national idol of the “Progress of Man” and/or “Humanism”. It is the totality of his life and influence on the future. The best thing to offer to help shine more light on this national idol is recorded in The Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson, but adopted by all of the founders.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.Excerpted from The Declaration of Independence
Here are the issues in these statements from God’s point of view.
- “self-evident” – this is a human centered, self-referential statement which moves away from God.
- “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” – this is not true. You cannot find it in the Bible. We do not have a right to unalienable Rights. This is based on “humanism” and man-centeredness.
- Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:22-24, “For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.”
- Note: There is a reference here to a “Creator”. The founders were primarily deists and christians. Each of these parties hear the word “Creator” differently. Christians hear “God the Father” who is very interested in our lives going so far as to send His own Son, Jesus Christ to save us. Deists hear “There is an unknowable providential God who created everything, set it in motion and gave man the ability to reason and act” and the rest is mostly up to us.
- these “Rights” are “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” – again these are not our Rights from God’s point of view.
- There is no Right to Liberty or Happiness in the Word of God. They are nice and I want to have them, but they are not Rights. This is antithetical to the true Gospel of Jesus Christ which includes much suffering and other-centeredness.
- I should also note that God’s law does support healthy relationships between all people, but this does not make them “unalienable rights”.
- “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”
- Again, this is false from God’s point of view. Governments derive their just powers from the sovereign hand of God. This includes the good ones and the bad ones. Their powers are just because God is in control of those who end up governing. It doesn’t feel good to consider this, but it is true. We all want a benevolent government, but this is not a requirement from God’s point of view in this day and age.
The Bible says governing authorities do not derive just powers from the consent of the governed. They derive just powers from the sovereign God of the universe who puts them in place.
1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except by God, and those that exist are put in place by God. 2 So then, the one who resists authority resists the ordinance which is from God, and those who resist will receive condemnation on themselves.Romans 13:1–2 (LEB)
Note: Just to be sure you don’t think I have totally lost it… I do believe God wants for us to have a perfect Government. He not only wants it. His plans include it and they will surely happen. His government is led by His Son, Jesus Christ as King of kings. It is not a democracy. It is a monarchy with a perfect leader. A good democracy is just the best that men have figured out under imperfect leaders, but it is not the best.
In fairness, Thomas Jefferson’s original authorship of the Declaration of Independence was edited a little bit, but everything I see in the document lines up with Jefferson’s thinking as best as can be interpreted several hundred years later.
In summary, a national idol that is focused on your rights, your advancement as people, being free now and ever searching for happiness has led many astray from the reality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ’s kingdom comes next. Set your eyes forward to what is to come. America is not good enough.
You may significantly disagree with me or even be offended that I would point at the American Declaration of Independence in the manner I have done. I do not believe I will fully convince those who like these ideas. I ask only one thing. Ask the Lord directly in your heart to reveal the truth to you. Tell Him that He has your permission to change your heart and mind. Give Him that opportunity and that is all. I trust that if what I believe He has been showing me is true that He can do the same for others in a way that will make sense to you.
— A. Layman