John Adams: Was He Really an Enemy of Christians?
Addressing Modern Academic Shallowness
by David Barton
At WallBuilders, we are truly blessed by God, owning tens of thousands of original documents from the American Founding – documents clearly demonstrating the Christian and Biblical foundations both of America and of so many of her Founding Fathers and early statesmen. We frequently post original documents on our website so that others may enjoy them and learn more about many important aspects of America’s rich moral, religious, and constitutional heritage that are widely unknown or misportrayed today.
Posted in the "Historical Documents" section of our website is a, letter from John Adams to Dr. Benjamin Rush (a close friend of Adams and a co-signer of the Declaration of Independence). That letter was Adams’ reply to a remarkable letter written him by Dr. Rush on October 17, 1809, describing a dream Rush believed God had given him about Adams. WallBuilders providentially obtained this original letter from an amazing presidential collection of a 100+ year old Floridian woman.
We often use quotes from that letter, including Adams’ bold declaration that:
The Holy Ghost carries on the whole Christian system in this Earth. Not a baptism, not a marriage, not a sacrament can be administered but by the Holy Ghost. . . . There is no authority, civil or religious – there can be no legitimate government – but that which is administered by this Holy Ghost. There can be no salvation without it. All without it is rebellion and perdition, or in more orthodox words, damnation. 1
This letter certainly contains profound Christian content, but that is not particularly surprising, for Adams wrote dozens of letters with similarly powerful Christian declarations. Also not surprising is the fact that liberals and atheists have attacked this letter and its content; they dismiss it with the excuse that Adams didn’t really mean what he said in the letter, or that it was code for something different from what he actually said. But what was surprising and unexpected is that this letter and its remarkable content did not set well with some Christians, especially Chris Pinto. Pinto has produced videos claiming not only that America does not have a Biblical foundation but specifically asserting that the Founding Fathers were largely pagans who represented the spirit of the Anti-Christ. He believes that Christians should not be involved in the political arena or similar areas of culture. 2
Pinto seems to have developed a fixation with WallBuilders, joining with liberals and atheists to demean it and the Founding Fathers. For example, in one video he prepared against me and the Founding Fathers, he specifically addressed the John Adams letter we posted, claiming:
Barton makes it appear as if John Adams was speaking favorably about the Holy Ghost in a letter he wrote to Benjamin Rush. In reality, Adams was mocking the idea of “Holy Ghost authority” and called Christians “dupes” for believing in it. 3
In truth, the letter Barton is presenting provides some of the most damning evidence found anywhere, and is consistent with many of the writings of the Revolutionaries, proving their contempt for Bible-based Christianity. In this letter, John Adams was not speaking in approval of the Holy Ghost, but was rather mocking the idea of it and of the faith of true Christians. . . . Adams did not believe the Holy Ghost was real, and he spoke about it in what can only be called insulting and irreverent terms. 4
Normally, we simply ignore these types of absurd claims, for we believe that the truth speaks for itself and that it will always eventually prevail. In fact, this is why we post so many original and hand-written Founding documents and letters online – we want individuals to see and read them for themselves to be personally aware of what is and is not true. It is important to follow the model praised by the Apostle Paul in Acts 17:11: always check original sources to establish truth. This is why we heavily document quotes and facts back to original sources – such as our best-selling book Original Intent: it contains some 1,700 footnotes, the vast majority of which are dated to primary-source documents published while the Founders were still alive.
(By the way, a notable ACLU attorney decided he would disprove our thesis that the Founding Fathers were largely Christian. He therefore took Original Intent and undertook a project to expose what he considered to be its falsehoods; he went back and checked our quotes against the original sources cited in the book. At the end of his research, he concluded that we had understated the faith of the Founders – that there was actually much more evidence to support their Christian faith than even what we had cited. This ACLU attorney was completely converted and went on to become an eminent court of appeals judge – all because he followed Paul’s model of Acts 17:11 and checked the evidence for himself. We have numerous similar testimonials of the dramatic change that has occurred in individuals who investigated the original facts for themselves.)
So although we typically do not respond to critics such as Pinto, in this case, his videos have confused many Christians who have respectfully asked us to help them sort out the facts and discern the truth. Hence we have chosen to address Pinto’s patently false claims about John Adams.
Significantly, Pinto reached his conclusions that John Adams was mocking the Holy Spirit only by ignoring, omitting, or not understanding lengthy and important segments of Adams’ letter (which is why we posted the complete letter online: to make it much harder for individuals to twist and distort its true meaning). When the segments that Pinto ignored or did not understand are returned to the letter, it becomes obvious that his premises have been infected with three of the five historical malpractices that characterize the current study of history: Modernism, Minimalism, and Deconstructionism (the other two of the five are Poststructuralism and Academic Collectivism, which Pinto also uses in other areas of his videos).
Modernism is the practice of analyzing historical incidents and persons as if they lived now rather than in the past. Modernism separates history from its context and setting – a practice that regularly produces flawed conclusions.
An illustration of Modernism is the manner in which today’s textbooks uniformly portray the colonial Puritans as intolerant Christians because of the witch trials in which twenty-seven individuals died. 5 But universally ignored is the fact that witch trials were occurring across the world at that time, not just in America; and in Europe alone, 500,000 were put to death, 6 including 30,000 in England, 75,000 in France, and 100,000 in Germany. 7 Additionally, the American witch trials lasted two months, but the European trials lasted for years. 8 Furthermore, the Massachusetts witch trials were brought to a close when Christian leaders such as the Rev. John Wise, the Rev. Increase Mather, and Thomas Brattle challenged the trials because Biblical rules of evidence and Due Process were not being followed in the courts. 9 Consequently:
The trials were stopped by Governor Phipps in October, 1692, and five years later the Massachusetts Court publicly repented and set apart a special day of fasting and prayer, that prayers might be offered, asking for forgiveness for “the late tragedy raised amongst us by Satan,” while the twelve jurors published a declaration of sorrow for accepting insufficient evidence against the accused, and Judge Sewall rose in his pew in the South Church and made public confession of his sense of guilt. 10
This is no attempt to defend the inexcusable twenty-seven deaths, but it is undeniable that the so-called “intolerant” conduct of the Puritans was light-years ahead of their “enlightened” contemporaries throughout the rest of the “civilized” Old World of Europe. As early church historian Charles Galloway affirmed, when the Puritans “are compared to their brothers in England and all Europe, they stand out as reformers of the most advanced and majestic type.” 11 To accurately portray historic events and individuals (whether it is the Puritans or John Adams), their words and actions must be measured not by today’s thinking and customs but rather in light of what was occurring in their own times – which is what Pinto does not do.
Let’s begin by looking at the extended portion of the letter that Pinto claims contains Adams’ alleged blasphemy against the Holy Spirit:
The Holy Ghost carries on the whole Christian system in this Earth. Not a baptism, not a marriage, not a sacrament can be administered but by the Holy Ghost, Who is transmitted from age to age by laying the hands of the Bishop on the heads of candidates for the ministry. In the same manner, as the Holy Ghost is transmitted from monarch to monarch by the holy oil in the vial at Rheims which was brought down from Heaven by a dove and by that other phial [vial] which I have seen in the Tower of London. There is no authority civil or religious, there can be no legitimate government but what is administered by this Holy Ghost. There can be no salvation without it. All without it is rebellion and perdition, or in more orthodox words, damnation. Although this is all artifice and cunning in the sacred original in the heart, yet they all believe it so sincerely that they would lay down their lives under the ax or the fiery fagot [bundle of wood used for burning individuals at the stake] for it. Alas, the poor weak ignorant dupe, human nature. There is so much king craft, priest craft, gentlemens craft, peoples craft, doctors craft, lawyers craft, merchants craft, tradesmens craft, laborers craft, and Devils craft in the world that it seems a desperate [hopeless] and impractical project to undeceive it. Do you wonder that Voltaire and Paine have made proselytes [converts]? Yet there [is] near as much subtlety, craft, and hypocrisy in Voltaire and Paine, and more, too, than in Ignatius Loyola [a Spanish knight who was a founder of the Jesuits]. 12
Recall from above that in Pinto’s analysis of this section he claims that Adams . . .
was mocking the idea of “Holy Ghost authority” and called Christians “dupes” for believing in it. . . . Adams was not speaking in approval of the Holy Ghost, but was rather mocking the idea of it and of the faith of true Christians. . . . Adams did not believe the Holy Ghost was real, and he spoke about it in what can only be called insulting and irreverent terms. 13
Is Pinto correct? Was Adams mocking Christians and the Holy Ghost? Absolutely not – which will be irrefutably proved below. But the fact that Pinto believes that Adams is insulting Christians and the Holy Spirit demonstrates not only that he employed Modernism but also the second device of historical malpractice: Minimalism.
Minimalism is an unreasonable insistence on over-simplicity – on using simplistic platitudes to reduce everything to monolithic causes and linear effects. As an example, citizens today are regularly taught that America separated from Great Britain because of “taxation without representation,” yet that issue was only one of twenty-seven grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence – and it was actually one of the lesser complaints. While only one grievance in the Declaration addressed taxation without representation, eleven addressed the abuse of representative powers; seven the abuse of military powers; four the abuse of judicial powers; and two the stirring up of domestic insurrection. Taxation without representation was only grievance number seventeen out of the twenty-seven, listed alongside Great Britain’s suppression of immigration and her interference with our foreign trade. While the taxation issue was given little emphasis in the Declaration, Minimalism causes it to virtually be the only issue covered today, thus giving citizens a skewed view of the American Revolution and what caused it.
Minimalism is what Pinto practices in his analysis of Adams’ letter. Rather than delving into the complex areas of church history that Adams directly references several times in the letter, Pinto just dismisses them out of hand, rashly claiming that Adams was being irreverent.
Six key phrases Adams used in the letter unequivocally prove that he was not mocking the Holy Spirit or Christianity:
- “monarch to monarch”
- “the holy oil in the vial at Rheims”
- “brought down from Heaven by a dove”
- “that other phial which I have seen in the Tower of London”
- “king craft”
- “priest craft”
Each of these phrases is a direct reference to a particular period and a definite incident in church history – a history early set forth and ably expounded by the Rev. John Wise (1652-1725) of Massachusetts, considered by prominent historians as one of the six greatest intellectual leaders responsible for shaping American thinking. 14 Wise’s works and sermons were read and widely studied across early America, including by the leading patriots and Founding Fathers. Wise divided the general history of Christianity into three epochs, and all six of Adams’ phrases refer to specific occurrences in one of those periods.
Period I includes the three centuries of Christianity immediately following the life of Christ. According to Wise, this was “the most refined and purest time, both as to faith and manners, that the Christian church has been honored with.” 15 Period I is the “Period of Purity,” and Jesus’ followers throughout that time largely did just what He had taught them to do.
Period II spans the next twelve centuries, and according to Wise, it was a period that “openly proclaimed itself to the scandal of the Christian religion.” 16 The State took control of the Church, with the State decreeing Christianity to be the official religion of the State and all other religions illegal. 17 This was a time of “the secularization of the Church and the depravation of Christianity” 18 – a time when the State seized and corrupted the Church and its doctrines, wrongly asserting “that one of the chief duties of an imperial ruler was to place his sword at the service of the Church and orthodoxy.” 19 Christianity became coercive through brutal civil laws attempting to enforce theological orthodoxy.
This age was characterized by autocratic leaders in both State and Church, with monarchies and theocracies (usually oppressive ones) as the primary forms of governance. The Founders frequently described Period II as a time of “kingcraft” and “priestcraft” – a time when kings and priests joined together against the people, using selfish ambition to gain personal wealth and power. 20
Period II is called the “Period of Apostasy” or “Period of Corruption,” and during this time, the Church was no longer a collection of individuals joined together in a voluntary association; instead it became a civil hierarchy overseeing a massive organization and numerous facilities. The individual follower of Christ was no longer of consequence; the common man was forbidden access to the Scriptures and education; tyrannical leaders became the pinnacle of consideration. The emphasis shifted from the personal to the structural, from the individual to the institutional – an anti-Biblical paradigm that prevailed for the next twelve centuries. Nearly all the negative incidents in world history associated with Christianity (e.g., the Inquisition, wholesale murder of Jews, tortures, etc.) are almost exclusively from this period of Christian corruption.
Period III, according to Wise, is that which “began a glorious reformation.” Wise explains: “Many famous persons, memorable in ecclesiastical history, being moved by the Spirit of God and according to Holy Writ, led the way in the face of all danger . . . for the good of Christendom.” 21 Early seeds of this change began with the efforts of numerous Christian leaders, including John Wycliffe (1320-1384), called the “Morning Star of the Reformation.” Nearly two dozen other Christian leaders also worked to spread Bible teachings across their respective countries, including Englishmen such as Thomas Cranmer, William Tyndale, John Rogers, and Miles Coverdale; Czechs such as John Huss and Jerome of Prague; Germans Martin Luther, Thomas Münzer, Andreas Carlstadt, and Kaspar von Schwenkfeld; Swiss Ulrich Zwingli; Frenchmen William Farel and John Calvin; Scotsmen John Knox and George Wishart; Dutchmen Jacobus Arminius, Desiderius Erasmus, and Menno Simons; and others.
This third era, called the “Period of Reformation,” emphasized a return to the Bible as the guidebook for all aspects of life and living. It therefore rekindled many of Christianity’s original teachings, including the Priesthood of the Believer (emphasizing that the individual had direct access to God without need of assistance from any official in Church or State) and Justification by Faith (emphasizing the importance of personal faith and an individual’s personal relationship with the Savior). The renewed Period III Biblical emphasis on the individual altered the way that both Church and State were viewed, thus resulting in new demands and expectations being placed upon each. Self-government and freedom of conscience were advocated for both institutions.
But such Bible teachings were not embraced by all, for they threatened the previously uncontested power of tyrants. Consequently, ruthless leaders in both State and Church initiated bloody purges, utilizing the most cruel tortures and barbaric persecutions to suppress the followers of the renewed Biblical teachings. For example, French leaders conducted the famous St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of September 17, 1585, eventually killing 110,000 French Reformation followers (i.e., Huguenots). Some 400,000 others fled France to avoid death and persecution, with many coming to America, especially South Carolina and New York.
Similarly, English leaders such as King Henry VIII attempted to suppress the Reformation’s individualistic teachings by public executions and burnings at the stake; and Edward VI, Mary, Elizabeth I, and subsequent monarchs continued those efforts. In fact, King James I even concocted two revolutionary new government-church “doctrines” to help him suppress the growing influence of Reformation teachings in England: the Divine Right of Kings, and Complete Submission and Non-Resistance to Authority.
Not surprisingly, Reformation followers (often known as “Dissenters” for opposing, or dissenting against, the autocratic and tyrannical practices of both State and Church) openly opposed James’ “irrational and unscriptural doctrines,” 22 thus prompting him to level additional brutal persecutions against them, including mutilation, hanging, and disemboweling. The Pilgrims came to Massachusetts in 1620 to escape the hounding persecution of King James, and a decade later, 20,000 Puritans also fled England after many received life sentences (or had their noses slit, ears cut off, or a brand placed on their foreheads) for adhering to Reformation teachings.
Despite the brutal worldwide persecution, the Reformation eventually prevailed, resulting in massive changes in both State and Church, finally bringing to an end the corrupt practices of Period II Christianity. The impact of Reformation Christianity upon nations during this period was almost exclusively positive, especially in America, where Reformation teachings took root and grew more quickly than in the rest of the world, having been planted in virgin soil completely uncontaminated by the apostasy of the previous twelve centuries.
American Founding Fathers and leaders (including John Adams) made a clear distinction between America’s Period III Christianity and Europe’s Period II Christianity. For example, Noah Webster emphatically declared:
The ecclesiastical establishments of Europe which serve to support tyrannical governments are not the Christian religion, but abuses and corruptions of it. 23
Daniel Webster agreed, rejoicing that American Christianity was . . .
Christianity to which the sword and the fagot [bundles of wood for burning individuals at the stake] are unknown – general tolerant Christianity is the law of the land! 24
Other Founding Fathers made similar distinctions, including John Jay (the original Chief Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court and a co-author of the Federalist Papers), who declared that the Period III Christianity practiced in America was “wise and virtuous,” 25 and John Quincy Adams described it as “civilized” 26 – terms certainly not associated with Period II Christianity.
Significantly, the six phrases identified above from Adams’ letter all refer to specific Period II perversions of orthodox Biblical teachings regarding the Holy Spirit; but Pinto, in his practice of Modernism and Minimalism, ignored all of Adams’ references to this. Consider what Pinto missed by disregarding Adams’ first three aforementioned phrases: “monarch to monarch,” “the holy oil in the vial at Rheims,” and “brought down from Heaven by a dove.”
In 496 AD in the city of Reims, Clovis was converted to Christianity and anointed King of France. Four centuries later, the Archbishop of Reims, attempting to convince the people that kings were the sovereign choice of God to rule the nation, claimed that when Clovis was about to be made king, the anointing oil could not be found. Perplexed as to what to do, the Archbishop claimed that God Himself miraculously sent from Heaven a dove (which church leaders believed to be the Holy Spirit) that carried down to earth a vial of special anointing oil.
This oil was kept in the Cathedral of Reims, and over the next millennia was used to anoint every French king (except one). Whenever the oil was moved or utilized in a coronation, it was accompanied by fifty guards, led by a high priest adorned in golden garb and jewels – reminiscent of the high priest in the Bible moving the Ark of the Covenant.
French tyrants in Church and State used this so-called “doctrine” that holy oil was carried from Heaven by the Holy Spirit to keep the people subjugated to the deplorable heresy of the Divine Right of Kings – a doctrine hated by every Reformation follower and student of the Bible. Thus Adams’ statement that “the Holy Ghost is transmitted from monarch to monarch by the holy oil in the vial at Rheims which was brought down from Heaven by a dove” is a direct reference to very specific and corrupt church doctrines of Period II.
Given the power that the oil of Reims exercised over the minds of the people, it is not surprising that monarchs in other nations, including England, wanted something similar for their own use. English king Edward II (1284-1327 AD) therefore claimed that the anointing oil he used for his coronation was given by the Virgin Mary directly to St. Thomas of Canterbury, who performed the ceremony. This vial of oil was kept safely sequestered under lock and key, to be used only for anointing new kings. This is what Adams described as “that other phial [vial] which I have seen in the Tower of London.” Adams had been America’s diplomat to France and to England, and he had first-hand knowledge of how their “holy” oil and its accompanying doctrine was used in both countries to subjugate the people under the influence of “kingcraft” and “priestcraft” – two more key phrases that Pinto also disregarded.
Adams despised the claim that either the French and British vials of oil had been brought from Heaven by the Holy Spirit. He believed that this false doctrine had caused incomparable suffering in the world. The French people finally came to the same conclusion, for following the French Revolution, they entered the Cathedral at Reims and broke the vial of oil so that it could never again be used to anoint another French tyrant to rule their nation.
Now having a general grasp of this period of both church and world history to which Adams specifically refers in his letter, reexamine his words with this background in mind.
Adams begins by first establishing the accepted doctrine of the Holy Spirit according to Period III Reformation Christianity, telling Rush:
But my friend there is something very serious in this business. The Holy Ghost carries on the whole Christian system in this Earth. Not a baptism, not a marriage, not a sacrament can be administered but by the Holy Ghost, Who is transmitted from age to age by laying the hands of the bishop on the heads of candidates for the ministry. 27
This statement is sound, solid, orthodox Christian doctrine. But Adams then contrasts that positive statement about the Holy Spirit with the perverted doctrine from Period II:
In the same manner, as the Holy Ghost is transmitted from monarch to monarch by the holy oil in the vial at Rheims which was brought down from Heaven by a dove and by that other phial [vial] which I have seen in the Tower of London. 28
Notice his use of the very important phrase: “In the same manner, as . . .” That is, having stated the right doctrine of the Holy Ghost, he now looks at the distortion of it – at how it was presented falsely “in the same manner,” but this time not in regards to “candidates for the ministry” (i.e., the Church, which is the proper use), but rather by wrongly teaching that the Holy Ghost is transferred from king to king (i.e., the State, which is not the proper use) by way of the oil brought from Heaven. Concerning this perverted view of the Holy Spirit from Period II, Adams laments:
Although this is all artifice and cunning in the sacred original in the heart, yet they all believe it so sincerely that they would lay down their lives under the ax or the fiery fagot [bundle of wood used for burning individuals at the stake] for it. Alas, the poor weak ignorant dupe, human nature. There is so much king craft, priest craft, gentlemens craft, peoples craft, doctors craft, lawyers craft, merchants craft, tradesmens craft, laborers craft, and Devils craft in the world that it seems a desperate [hopeless] and impractical project to undeceive it. 29
Adams clearly is not condemning Christianity or Biblical doctrine regarding the Holy Ghost, but is rather reproaching its twisting during Period II, noting that those who follow the Divine Right of Kings maldoctrine are willing to die for their belief “under the ax or the fiery fagots,” and thus suffer from that “poor weak ignorant dupe, human nature” – that is, human depravity is on full display, and so thoroughly convinced of the truth of this maldoctrine were its followers that it even seemed a waste of time to Adams to try to convince them otherwise.
By the way, many today do not understand the historical use of the term “priestcraft”; it is not a derogatory term used against ministers of the Gospel. As explained by one of the most famous evangelical Christian preachers of the Founding Era, Baptist minister John Leland:
By Priest-Craft, no contempt is designed to be cast upon any of the Lord’s priest’s, from Melchizedeck to Zecharias, nor upon any of the ministers of Christ, either those who have been remarkably endowed with power from on high to work miracles, &c. or those of ordinary endowments, who have been governed by supreme love to the Savior and benevolence to mankind. These, to the world, have been like the stars of night. But by priest-craft is intended the rushing into the sacred work for the sake of ease, wealth, honor, and ecclesiastical dignity. Whether they plead lineal succession or Divine impulse, their course is directed for self-advantage. By good words and fair speeches, they deceive the simple; and [use] solemn threatening of fines, gibbets [the gallows], or the flames of hell to those who do not adhere to their institutes. 30
But to Americans such as John Leland and John Adams, the possibility of government officials placing church officials over America (i.e., “kingcraft” and “priestcraft”) was not something of the ancient past – it was still a potential imminent danger to be feared and fiercely repelled. In fact, John Adams repeatedly avowed that one of the principal causes behind the American Revolution had been the possibility of having the king appoint a bishop over America. 31
Adams letter to Rush merely reinforces the contempt that he and most Americans had for the autocratic Divine Right of Kings doctrine – a doctrine still believed by many at that time to have been delivered directly from Heaven by the Holy Spirit Himself. Adams saw this as a complete perversion of true Bible teachings regarding the role of the Holy Spirit. He therefore queried of Rush:
Do you wonder that Voltaire and Paine have made proselytes [converts]? Yet there [is] near as much subtlety, craft, and hypocrisy in Voltaire and Paine, and more, too, than in Ignatious Loyola [a Spanish knight who was a founder of the Jesuits]. 32
That is, given the bad “Christian” teachings that caused so much misery and suffering across Europe, it was not surprising that atheists and anti-religionists such as Voltaire and Paine had such a strong following. It remains an unfortunate fact to this day that non-Biblical Christianity and non-Biblical Christians still drive people away from the Christian faith rather than to it. As affirmed by the Apostle Paul in Romans 2:24, “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” – that is, it is God’s people who often give God a bad name among non-believers. (The prophet Nathan stated the same message in 2 Samuel 12:24 when he said to David, “By this deed, you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme.”)
The final evidence that Adams was not being disrespectful to the Holy Ghost or Christians in his letter is seen in his closing statement to Rush that:
Your prophecy, my dear friend, has not become history as yet. 33
This is a very respectful reference to the dream Rush believed that God had given him. There is nothing derogatory or scornful in Adams’ reference to “prophecy” – a direct and positive product of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21).
Chris Pinto, in his analysis of Adams letter, has managed to ignore more than a millennia of church and world history in his unreasonable attempt to brand John Adams a heretic and blasphemer of the Holy Spirit. And adding insult to his malpractice injury, he also ignored more than thirty volumes of Adams’ published writings, containing hundreds of positive letters and repeated favorable references to religion and Christianity. Thus, Pinto’s claim about Adams’ irreligion is directly refuted not only by the context of the letter itself but also by the powerful evidence of the lifelong proven faith and character of John Adams.
In fact, in the very next letter Adams wrote Rush following letter that Pinto attacks, Adams vigorously defended Christianity against the attack made upon it by Thomas Paine, telling Rush:
He [Thomas Paine] understood neither government nor religion. . . . His billingsgate [vile and vulgar attack] . . . will never discredit Christianity, which will hold its ground in some degree as long as human nature shall have anything moral or intellectual left in it. The Christian religion. . . . will last as long as the world. Neither savage nor civilized man without a revelation could ever have discovered or invented it. Ask me not, then, whether I am a Catholic or Protestant, Calvinist or Arminian. As far as they are Christians, I wish to be a fellow-disciple with them all. 34
This letter certainly does not reflect either the tone or the attitude of an heretic who would attack and blaspheme the Holy Spirit. Consider some of the scores of other quotes by John Adams, and contrast them with the anti-religious image that Pinto wrongly attempts to draw of Adams:
Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited. . . . What a Eutopia – what a Paradise would this region be! 35 1756
I sat next to John Adams in Congress, and upon my whispering to him and asking him if he thought we should succeed in our struggle with Great Britain, he answered me, “Yes – if we fear God and repent of our sins.” This anecdote will, I hope, teach my boys that it is not necessary to disbelieve Christianity or to renounce morality in order to arrive at the highest political usefulness or fame. 36 1777, Benjamin Rush, Reporting His Conversation with Adams
The idea of infidelity [a disbelief in the inspiration of the Scriptures or the Divine origin of Christianity 37 ] cannot be treated with too much resentment or too much horror. The man who can think of it with patience is a traitor in his heart and ought to be execrated [denounced] as one who adds the deepest hypocrisy to the blackest treason. 38 1778
[All persons elected must] make and subscribe the following declaration, viz. “I do declare that I believe the Christian religion and have firm persuasion of its truth.” 39 1780, Constitution of Massachusetts (Adams wan an Author of this Clause)
On motion of the Hon. Mr. [John] Adams, Voted, That the Convention will attend morning prayers daily, and that the gentlemen of the clergy of every denomination be requested to officiate in turn. 40 1788, Massachusetts Convention to Ratify the U. S. Constitution
The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity and humanity, let the blackguard [scoundrel, rogue] Paine say what he will. 41 1796
As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him. . . . I have therefore thought fit to recommend . . . a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer that the citizens of these States . . . offer their devout addresses to the Father of Mercies. 42 1798
[W]e have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. . . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. 43 1798
The Bible contains the most profound philosophy, the most perfect morality, and the most refined policy that ever was conceived upon earth. . . .The curses against fornication and adultery, and the prohibition of every wanton glance or libidinous ogle at a woman, I believe to be the only system that ever did or ever will preserve a republic in the world. . . . I say then that national morality never was and never can be preserved without the utmost purity and chastity in women; and without national morality a republican government cannot be maintained. 44 1807
I think there is nothing upon this earth more sublime and affecting than the idea of a great nation all on their knees at once before their God, acknowledging their faults and imploring His blessing and protection. 45 1809
[I]t is notorious enough that I have been a church-going animal for seventy-six years from the cradle. 46 1811
The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were . . . . the general principles of Christianity. . . . 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. 47 1813
I have examined all [religions], . . . and the result is that the Bible is the best book in the world. 48 1813
Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company: I mean hell. 49 1817
There are numerous similar quotes by Adams. This certainly is not the profile of an individual who would blaspheme the Holy Spirit, Christianity, or religion.
One other point that illustrates the absurd results which occur under Modernism is John Adams’ request that Rush burn the letter after he reads it:
This letter is so much in the tone of my friend the Abbe Raynal [a French writer] and the grumblers of the last age, that I pray you to burn it. 50
Critics also point to this phrase as yet another proof that Adams was blaspheming Christians – that he did not want his true sacrilegious opinions to be known, so he asked Rush to burn the letter. But just as Pinto apparently had no idea what Adams meant when he referenced the oil at Reims or in the Tower of London, apparently critics did not know that a request to burn letters was a common practice in that era (especially for former presidents), regardless of the topic covered in the letter.
For example, after the death of George Washington in 1799, Martha burned all of the letters that had passed between them (only three remain today). 51 George also asked friends to burn letters he sent them. 52
It was the same with Thomas Jefferson. Even with individuals whom he completely trusted, he would often ask his friends to return the letter after they read it, 53 or else burn, destroy, or keep its contents private. 54
James Madison also destroyed much of his correspondence, and Dolly Madison did the same with hers. In fact, in much of her correspondence that did survive, she often asked her recipients to burn her letter after reading it. 55 Even individuals who wrote to Madison asked that he burn their letter. 56
John Adams had the same practice. 57
Pinto’s preposterous analysis of Adams’ letter is based on the flawed practices of Modernism and Minimalism. Unfortunately, he repeats these same practices throughout his other videos, frequently taking deep multi-faceted issues, failing to recognize or acknowledge crucial references to historical events or practices, and presenting an especially negative view of history. It is for this reason that Pinto is also a Deconstructionist.
Deconstructionism (another of the five malpractices in the modern study of history) is an approach that “tends to deemphasize or even efface the subject” – that is, to malign or smear the subject by posing “a continuous critique” to “lay low what was once high.” 58 It is a steady flow of belittling and malicious portrayals of traditional heroes, beliefs, values, and institutions. Deconstructionists happily point out everything that can possibly be portrayed as a flaw, even if they have to distort information to do it; yet they remain ominously silent about the multitude of reasons to be proud of America, her many heroes, and her many successes. As a result of the work of Deconstructionists, most Americans today can recite more of what’s wrong with America and the Founding Fathers than what’s right.
It is time for Americans, and especially Christians, to become better informed about America’s remarkable moral, religious, and constitutional foundations and to reject the efforts of Deconstructionists who attempt to undermine so many positive aspects of America’s extraordinary heritage – a heritage that has provided unprecedented blessings, and a heritage for which we should be humbly grateful to Almighty God.
1.John Adams letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush on December 21, 1809, from an original in our possession (see original at: http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=59755). (Return)
2. See, for example, a series of podcasts “The Hidden Faith of the Founding Fathers,” Waking Jonah (at: http://wakingjonah.com/tag/david-barton/) (accessed on June 13, 2011). (Return)
3. Chris Pinto, “David Barton Approves of Sharia Law in America and Misleads Jon Stewart?," Worldview Times, April 10, 2011 (at: http://www.worldviewweekend.com/worldview-times/article.php?articleid=7153). (Return)
4. Chris Pinto, “David Barton Approves of Sharia Law in America and Misleads Jon Stewart?," Worldview Times, April 10, 2011 (at: http://www.worldviewweekend.com/worldview-times/article.php?articleid=7153). (Return)
5. Of the 27, 14 women and 5 men were tried, found guilty and hung; 1 man was tortured to death by crushing because he refused to cooperate with the court and answer their questions. To persuade him to talk they took him to a field and put a board on him with rocks, they increased the number of rocks until he would cooperate but he continued to refuse and was crushed to death. He was therefore never convicted but he is considered the 20th victim as he was on trial for being a wizard. And 7 individuals died in prison awaiting trial; one was a baby in prison with her mother, who was awaiting trial as a witch. Salem Witch Museum, January 13, 2011 (at: http://www.salemwitchmuseum.com/education/index.shtml) per the museum’s Department of Education. (Return)
6. William Warren Sweet, The Story of Religion in America (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1950), p. 61. (Return)
7. Charles B. Galloway, Christianity and the American Commonwealth (Nashville: Publishing House Methodist Episcopal Church, 1898), p. 110. (Return)
8. Charles B. Galloway, Christianity and the American Commonwealth (Nashville: Publishing House Methodist Episcopal Church, 1898), p. 110. (Return)
9. Dictionary of American Biography, s.v. “Mather, Increase” and “Brattle, Thomas.” See also “The Salem Witch Trials: Reason Returns,” Court TV: Crime Library (at: http://www.crimelibrary.com/notorious_murders/not_guilty/salem_witches/12.html?sect=12) (accessed on February 3, 2011). (Return)
10. William Warren Sweet, The Story of Religion in America (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1950), p. 62. (Return)
11. Charles B. Galloway, Christianity and the American Commonwealth (Nashville: Publishing House Methodist Episcopal Church, 1898), p. 90. (Return)
12. John Adams letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush on December 21, 1809, from an original in our possession (see original at: http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=59755). (Return)
13. Chris Pinto, “David Barton Approves of Sharia Law in America and Misleads Jon Stewart?," Worldview Times, April 10, 2011 (at: http://www.worldviewweekend.com/worldview-times/article.php?articleid=7153). (Return)
14. Clinton Rossiter, Seedtime of the Republic: Origin of the American Tradition of Political Liberty (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1953), p. 2. (Return)
15. John Wise, A Vindication of the Government of New-England Churches (Boston: John Boyles, 1772), p. 3. (Return)
16. John Wise, A Vindication of the Government of New-England Churches (Boston: John Boyles, 1772), p. 5. (Return)
17. Fordham University, “Medieval Sourcebook: Banning of Other Religions, Theodosian Code XVI.1.2” (at: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/theodcodeXVI.html). (Return)
18. Samuel Smith Harris, The Relation of Christianity to Civil Society (New York: Thomas Whittaker, 1883), p. 62. (Return)
19. Joseph Blötzer, transcribed by Matt Dean, “Inquisition,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. VIII (New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910), Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York (at: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08026a.htm). (Return)
20. Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (New Haven, 1828), s.v., “kingcraft” and “priestcraft.” (Return)
21. John Wise, A Vindication of the Government of New-England Churches (Boston: John Boyles, 1772), p. 6. (Return)
22. J. M. Mathews, The Bible and Civil Government, in a Course of Lectures (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1851), p. 231. (Return)
23. Noah Webster, History of the United States (New Haven: Durrie & Peck, 1832), p. 339. (Return)
24. Daniel Webster, Mr. Webster’s Speech in Defense of the Christian Ministry and In favor of the Religious Instruction of the Young. Delivered in the Supreme Court of the United States, February 10, 1844, in the Case of Stephen Girard’s Will (Washington: Gales and Seaton, 1844), p. 52. (Return)
25. William Jay, The Life of John Jay (New York:J. &J. Harper, 1833), p. 80, from his "Charge to the Grand Jury of Ulster County" on September 9,1777. (Return)
26. John Quincy Adams, An Oration Delivered Before the Inhabitants of the Town of Newburyport at Their Request on the Sixty-First Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence (Newburyport: Charles Whipple, 1837), p. 17. (Return)
27. John Adams letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush on December 21, 1809, from an original in our possession (see original at: http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=59755). (Return)
28. John Adams letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush on December 21, 1809, from an original in our possession (see original at: http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=59755). (Return)
29. John Adams letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush on December 21, 1809, from an original in our possession (see original at: http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=59755). (Return)
30. John Leland, The Writings of the Late Elder John Leland, Including Some Events in His Life (New York: G. W. Wood, 1845), p. 484. (Return)
31. John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1856), Vol. X, p. 185, to Dr. Jedediah Morse on December 2, 1815. See also letter from John Adams to Jonathan Mason on August 31, 1820 (at: http://www.natedsanders.com/ItemInfo.asp?ItemID=33275). (Return)
32. John Adams letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush on December 21, 1809, from an original in our possession (see original at: http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=59755). (Return)
33. John Adams letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush on December 21, 1809, from an original in our possession (see original at: http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=59755). (Return)
34. John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1854), Volume IX, pp. 626- 267, to Benjamin Rush, January 21,1810. (Return)
35. John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1850), Vol. II, pp. 6-7, diary entry for February 22, 1756. (Return)
36. Benjamin Rush, Letters of Benjamin Rush, L. H. Butterfield, editor (NJ: American Philosophical Society, 1951), Vol. I, p. 534, to John Adams on February 24, 1790. (Return)
37. Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828), s.v. “infidelity.” (Return)
38. John Adams, Papers of John Adams, Robert J. Taylor, editor (Cambridge: The Belknap Press, 1983),Vol. 6, p. 348, to James Warren on August 4, 1778. (Return)
39. A Constitution or Frame of Government Agreed Upon by the Delegates of the People of the State of Massachusetts-Bay (Boston: Benjamin Edes & Sons, 1780), p. 44, Chapter VI, Article I. (Return)
40. The Debates in the Several Conventions, on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, Jonathan Elliot, editor (Washington: Printed for the Editor, 1836), Vol. II, p. 2, Massachusetts Convention, January 9, 1788. (Return)
41. John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1856), Vol. III, p. 421, diary entry for July 26, 1796. (Return)
42. John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1854), Vol. IX, p. 169, “Proclamation for a National Fast on March 23, 1798.” (Return)
43. John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1854), Vol. IX, p. 229, to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts on October 11, 1798. (Return)
44. John Adams, Old Family Letters, Alexander Biddle, editor (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1892), pp. 127-128, to Benjamin Rush on February 2, 1807. (Return)
45. John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1854), Vol. IX, p. 291, correspondence originally published in the Boston Patriot, 1809, Letter XIII. (Return)
46. John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1854), Vol. IX, p. 637, to Benjamin Rush on August 28, 1811.(Return)
47. Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew A. Lipscomb, editor (Washington, D. C.: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), Vol. XIII, p. 293, from John Adams on June 28, 1813.(Return)
48. John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1856), Vol. X, p. 85, to Thomas Jefferson on December 25, 1813.(Return)
49. John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1856), Vol. X, p. 254, to Thomas Jefferson on April 19, 1817.(Return)
50. John Adams letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush on December 21, 1809, from an original in our possession (see original at: http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=59755). (Return)
51. “Slide Four—A Family Man: A Letter to Martha,” The University of Virginia (at: http://gwpapers.virginia.edu/education/life/life4.html) (accessed on June 6, 2011). (Return)
52. See, for example, George Washington, Letters from His Excellency General Washington to Arthur Young (London: B. McMillan, 1801), p. 159, to Arthur Young on December 12, 1793; George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, Worthington Chauncey Ford, editor (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1891), Vol. XI, p. 490, to Clement Biddle on July 20, 1790; George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, Jared Sparks, editor (Boston: Russell, Odiorne, and Metcalf, and Hilliard, Gray, and Co., 1835), Vol. IX, p. 175, to George William Fairfax on June 25, 1786. (Return)
53. Thomas Jefferson, Memoir, Correspondence, and Miscellanies, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, editor (Charlottesville: F. Carr, and Co., 1829), Vol. IV, p. 206, to John Adams on August 22, 1813; Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew A. Lipscomb, editor (Washington, D. C., Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1903), Vol. XV, p. 1, to F. A. Van Der Kemp on April 25, 1816. (Return)
54. See, for example, Thomas Jefferson, The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Paul Leicester Ford, editor (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1905), Vol. IX, p. 459, note. See also Thomas Jefferson, Memoir, Correspondence, and Miscellanies, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, editor (Boston: Gray and Bowen, 1830), Vol. IV, p. 320, to William Short on April 13, 1820; Benjamin Rush, Letters of Benjamin Rush, L. H. Butterfield, editor (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1951), Vol. II, pp. 863-864, to Thomas Jefferson on May 5, 1803; Thomas Jefferson, The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Paul Leicester Ford, editor (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904), Vol. 4, p. 413, to James Madison on May 11, 1785;Thomas Jefferson, The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Paul Leicester Ford, editor (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1905), Vol. IX, to Elbridge Gerry on January 26, 1799; Thomas Jefferson, The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Paul Leicester Ford, editor (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1905), Vol. XI, to Horatio Gates Spafford on January 10, 1816; Thomas Jefferson, The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Paul Leicester Ford, editor (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1905). Vol. IX, to James Cheetham on January 17, 1802. (Return)
55. “James Madison’s Nieces and Nephews,” University of Virginia Press (at: http://rotunda.upress.virginia.edu/dmde/editorialnote.xqy?note=all) (accessed on June 8, 2011). (Return)
56. See, for example, James Madison, The Writings of James Madison, Comprising His Public Papers and His Private Correspondence, Including His Numerous Letters and Documents now for the First Time Printed, Gaillard Hunt, editor (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1900), Vol. IX, to Joseph C. Cabell on September 7, 1829. (Return)
57. See, for example, John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1856), Vol. IX, to John Tudor on July 23, 1774. (Return)
58. Jack M. Balkin, “Tradition, Betrayal, and the Politics of Deconstruction – Part II,” Yale University, 1998 (at: http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/jbalkin/articles/trad2.htm). (Return)