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A Sacred Trust: Lillback Sets Record Straight on Washington's Christian Faith

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2006-06-29 03:14:32     
Westminster Theological Seminary

In his first Inaugural Address, George Washington told the American people that they had been entrusted with preserving "the sacred fire of liberty."

In George Washington's Sacred Fire, Dr. Peter A. Lillback accepts his own sacred trust -- correcting the historical record about Washington's Christian faith.

"What enflamed Washington's passion and stirred his heart was that which was sacred to his soul -- his utter dependence on the hand of Divine Providence," Dr. Lillback writes.

Many historians erroneously lumped Washington in with other members of the Founding Fathers, such as Thomas Paine, who were Deists. They believed that God created the universe, then abandoned any role in human affairs.

When Dr. Lillback, the president of Westminster Theological Seminary, began exploring Washington's faith, he found that most of the historical accounts didn't ring true. So, some 15 years ago, he began to exhaustively research the subject.

His book, available on the Fourth of July from Providence Forum Press, convincingly shows that Washington was a devout Anglican -- what today would be called an Episcopalian.

Washington read sermons to his family. His writing was thick with Biblical allusions. He composed more than 100 prayers in his own hand.

In his writings, he used the word "God" at least 146 times, "divine" at least 95 times, "heaven" at least 133 times and "providence" at least 270 times.

His first act as president was a prayer. When he finished his oath of office, he added the words, "So help me God," and bent down to kiss the Bible. Then he led the crowd across the street to a chapel for a two-hour service.

In his General Orders to the troops at Valley Forge, he wrote, "While we are zealously performing the duties of good Citizens and soldiers we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of Religion. To the distinguished Character of Patriot, it should be our highest Glory to add the more distinguished Character of Christian."

That's not only evidence for Washington's Christian faith, but a precedent for Christianity's role in the public square today.

NOTE: For more information or to schedule an interview with Dr. Lillback, contact Steve Yount at 972-267-1111 or steve@alarryross.com.

Specialized in: Sacred Trust - Lillback - Christian Faith
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