The Bible And The Influence It Had On America’s Founding: All this week we will be sharing a special presentation from Foundations of Freedom! We’ll be having special guests coming on each day so stay tuned throughout the week! Today, we will be discussing what the Founders said about the Bible and the influence it had on America.
Air Date: 10/22/2018
On-air Personalities: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton
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Transcription note: As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast. Transcription will be released shortly. However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled or we might use an asterisk to indicate a missing word because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.
Welcome to the intersection of faith and the culture. This is WallBuilders Live! Thanks for joining us today. Going to be talking about some of the hottest topics on policy, and faith, and the culture. All of that from a Biblical, historical, and constitutional perspective.
David Barton, Tim Barton, and myself, Rick Green are normally your hosts here on WallBuilders Live. But we’ve got something special coming up this week. All this week you’re going to get to hear some Foundations of Freedom. It’s the latest television program from WallBuilders. You can see it across the country on television or you can listen to it right here on WallBuildersLive. You can visit our website at WallBuilders.com if you’d like to pick up the full DVD set. Lots of great guest stars in there. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Glenn Beck, and others.
This week we’re going to share with you four of those programs. We are just going to play them straight through this week. Some fantastic topics you’re going to enjoy. We’re going to be talking about the Founders Bible. We’re talking about what the founders said about the Bible and the influence of the Bible in America.
And we’re going to move into the Foundations of Law with Michele Bachmann. So some great material coming up over the next few days. We’re going to dive in right now with that first episode. This is the Founders Bible, it’s part of Foundations of Freedom with David Barton.
Modern day historians tell us our nation’s Founding Fathers were a diverse group of atheists, Deists, and political revolutionaries. So where did they find the common ground and inspiration for the ideas that birthed America? Did their faith play a role? Or do we have, as many claim, a “Godless Constitution?”
Join historian David Barton with special guests Glenn Beck, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, and more as they explore the America our Founding Fathers envisioned. What if America’s story is bolder, more colorful, and more compelling than you ever imagined? This is Foundations of Freedom.
Welcome to Foundations of Freedom. We’ll look at important aspects of our common heritage that very few folks today hear anything about. Joining me today is Rick Green. Rick is an attorney, he’s a former legislator, he’s an author of numerous books, and he’s also the head of Patriot Academy which is a wonderful youth program that teaches young people how to be our future civil leaders. Rick, you and I also co-host a daily radio program heard nationally and it’s an honor to have you with us.
The Bible Is A Foundational Document Of America
It’s my privilege to be with you. I’m looking forward to talking about Foundations of Freedom because it seems like we’re losing some of those freedoms and people who are hungry, they want to know: What are the Foundations? How did we become so successful as a nation? And why are we losing it?
I think most of the time we think about foundational documents as the Constitution and Declaration. Our topic today, we’re going to talk about the Bible. Maybe most people don’t recognize that as a foundational document of America.
It is. And one of the interesting things that political scientists have found in looking back at our founding era which runs from 1760 to 1805. They said, “Where do these guys get all these remarkable ideas?”
And when they looked to see what the Founding Fathers and others in that era quoted the Bible was the number one source far and away more than any other source. The Bible was the most frequently quoted source. So it is a founding document of America, no question.
Some Of Our Daily Phrases Came From The Bible
We’ve got some questions from our audience about the role of the Bible in our culture today so let’s go to some of those.
“I often hear Christians quoting Bible verses when they’re talking about history and culture. Why did they have to inject the Bible into everything?”
Well, here we’re talking about the Bible as a founding document. Some people don’t want to hear it at all in the culture. Maybe they feel like you’re preaching at them even when you just quoted the Bible.
That’s one of the things that most folks today don’t know. But to say, “I don’t want to hear the Bible injected.” Too late, already there. A good example, we have over 250 idioms that we use on a daily basis that is direct quotations out of the Bible, you hear this all the time.
A great book on that, this book, professors, they’ve gone through and just documented what we say to each other that is from the Bible like, “By the skin of your teeth.” That’s in Job.“I’ll give you my two cents worth.” That’s out of Mark.
I use that one all the time.
So people are using these?
They use them all the time. “A leopard can’t change its spots.” “There’s nothing new under the sun.” The Bible is so much a part of what we do, people don’t recognize it. Now, what’s happening is, once we start identifying this when they say, “Don’t talk to me about the Bible.” “Too late, you already used the Bible.”
I was about to say, they’re using it. The ones that are complaining about it, they’re actually quoting it.
They just don’t don’t have a clue. So, to say that we shouldn’t be injecting the Bible in things today, we wouldn’t be America, we wouldn’t even have our language, we wouldn’t have our fine arts and entertainment, we wouldn’t have what we enjoy today if the Bible hadn’t been injected into it.
It’s been there from the beginning.
It’s been there from the beginning.
When Is The Right Time For Youth To Study The Bible?
Alright, on to another question.
Hi, I’m really involved with the youth activities at my church. And so I was wondering when you thought was the right time for youth to start reading and really study the Bible?
That’s a great question, I’m curious myself. I’ve got four kids. So what is the right time to start training them or giving them the opportunity to study the Bible?
Well, you’ve got examples from both Bible and from American history. When you look at American history the right time to start training them is when they start learning to read.
For example, when Washington, D.C. became the national capital, we had first been back in New York City for a year and then in Philadelphia for 10 years and then in 1800, we moved into Washington, D.C.
The president at that point was Thomas Jefferson. And President Thomas Jefferson was made a regent on the school board for Washington, D.C. public schools. They actually wanted him to be the president of the school board has said, “No, I’m being a different president right now.”
“I’m a little busy,” right?
“I’m a little busy but I’ll help you.” And so Thomas Jefferson is credited with outlining and forming the plan of education for Washington, D.C. public schools. And when you look at the very first report of Washington, D.C. Public Schools it’s interesting that they say that students learned to read from two books.
Learning To Read From The Bible
This is one, this is a Bible from when Thomas Jefferson was president. And that’s one thing they learned to read from. And the other is this, right here, it’s called, “Watts hymnal.” Let me read to you-
Hang on, I’m stuck on the fact that you said, “They were learning to read from the Bible.”
From the Bible.
This is a public school. And Thomas Jefferson who is credited as being the guy who, “Oh, no, he wanted a secular society.” He’s the guy who came up with this plan of education.
So let me just read to you from the first report of Washington, D.C. public schools. Again, this is the school system where Jefferson is credited with creating the plan of education. Here’s what it says, the first report says, “Fifty-five have learned to read in the old and new testaments and all are able to spell words of three, four, and five syllables. Twenty-six are now learning to read Dr. Watts hymns and spell words of two syllables. Ten are learning words of four and five letters. Of the fifty-nine, out of the whole number admitted that did not know a single letter, twenty can now read the Bible and spell words of three, four, and five syllables. Twenty-nine can read Dr. Watts hymns and spell words of two syllables and ten words of four and five letter.”
I’m amazed by two things. First of all, that they were reading the Bible. But also, five syllables? I don’t know if I know any five syllable words, they are reading five syllable words.
And this is where this starting. So when did they begin? Well, you take, for example, Harriet Beecher Stowe she wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin. When she was 7 years old she’d already memorize 27 hymns and she knew several chapters out of the Bible. Let’s not stop with the Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Let’s go to John Witherspoon, signer of the Declaration of Independence and president of Princeton. When he was four years old he’d already read the King James Bible through from cover to cover. So four years old he’s already read this cover to cover.
A four-year-old reading at all is amazing.
Nobody told him to read it cover to cover. If his parent said, “Oh, you can’t read that.” He doesn’t know that. If you say, “You can learn to read this.”
The expectation is there.
The expectation is there, and we expected kids to learn. And by the way, when he was still a child he had memorized nearly the entire New Testament, signed the Declaration. You’ve got folks like John Trumbull, he is one of our literary figures. He did these works right here. John trouble on the Supreme Court of Connecticut. At the age of six he had already mastered Greek, he knew Greek better than-
At six years!
You have George Wythe, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. When he was three years old he was already studying and reading the classics. Daniel Webster, when he was six years old in a public school memorization contest he memorized scores of Bible verses in one day at a public school. So, this is typical.
The New England Primer
I guess the final proof of that is this little book right here. This is the first textbook ever printed in America is called the New England Primer. For 240 years students learned to read out of this book. This is when they’re in words of three syllables.
Here’s your memory work, the letter “a.” “A wise son makes a glad father but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.” That’s a Bible verse.
“B, better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith.” That’s a Bible verse.
“C, come unto Christ all ye that labor and are heavy laden, he will give you rest.” That’s a Bible verse.
This is where we learn to read. So, how early is too early work? Just start your kids-
From the beginning.
They have no basis, “Oh Mom, you can’t teach me that. I’m too young for that.” It’s the expectations we put on them. And so you see from American history what we do here. This little book right here, a fun little book done by President John Quincy Adams.
He did this book and it shows 10-year-old Americans how to read the Bible from cover to cover once every year, 10-year-old Americans. A book from the president on how to read the Bible cover to cover. That’s our history and that’s our heritage. We were into the Bible, the Founding Fathers were in the Bible.
The Bible Was A Fundamental Textbook
Let me go to a guy named Fisher Ames. Most folks today have never heard of Fisher Ames. Fisher James is a framer of the Bill of Rights. He is the guy credited with coming up with the House language for the First Amendment of the Constitution.
This is where we have our freedom of religion.
Freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, freedom of press, and speech, and all the others. The interesting thing about this framer of the First Amendment, he’s looking at schools in his day and he’s noticing that in the schools they’re putting in lots of new textbooks. He’s kind of wondering about that and he says, “Well, I read them.” It’s a piece here, an op-ed piece, that ran in a national magazine called, “The Platinum.”
And he says, “I’ve looked at the books and they have good content, the moral content is really good. But here’s what I’m noticing. The more textbooks we’re putting in the classroom the more time we’re having to spend on those textbooks. The more time we spend on the textbooks the less time we have available to spend on the Bible. If we’re not careful, the Bible is going to start drifting to the back of our classrooms and this can’t be tolerated in American education.”
So, there’s the guy who gave us the First Amendment, the House version of First Amendment, and he said, “Don’t ever let the Bible drift the back of classrooms.” So that’s how he was educated.
And had seen the results of a generation raised with that being the main textbook.
That’s the way we’ve done in America. The very first public school law we have in America in 1647 it was passed to make sure the students knew the Bible because then you could understand how the government was supposed to operate. You understand how the courts are supposed to operate, and you’d make sure civil atrocities didn’t get introduced like they had in Europe. Knowing the Bible is really key.
A Dozen Reasons To Keep The Bible In Schools
You’ve got folks here, like Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration. John Adams said that he’s one of the three most notable signers. Benjamin Rush is called, “the father of public schools” under the Constitution.
So you’d think, “Hey, that’s a pretty important guy.” Not today. We don’t talk about him. And it could be because right here, in this piece he goes through in 1790 and 91 and gives a dozen reasons why will never take the Bible out of public schools in America. A dozen reasons why it will always be our number one textbook. And in explaining it, he gave a great warning to future generations.
He said, “Any generation that takes the Bible out of schools is going to spend all of his time and money fighting crime.” Because you could prevent crime right there in a classroom by teaching the Bible. If you take it out you’re going to spend your time-
It’s like a prophecy coming true today.
Taking The Bible Out Of Schools
Yeah, exactly. And see what happened, in 1963, in two cases at the U.S. Supreme Court *** announced out of the clear blue, “Time to take the Bible out of schools. Yeah, we’ve been doing it for 300 years but it’s time to go.” And the court said, “There is no historical precedent or legal precedent for what they did.” So they took it out.
Going back to Benjamin Rush, he had a great quote, “The Bible, when not read in schools, is seldom read in any subsequent period of life.”
Have you ever wanted to learn more about the United States Constitution but just felt like, man, the classes are boring or it’s just that old language from 200 years ago or I don’t know where to start? People want to know. But it gets frustrating because you don’t know where to look for truth about the Constitution either.
Well, we’ve got a special program for you available now called Constitution Alive with David Barton and Rick Green. It’s actually a teaching done on the Constitution at Independence Hall in the very room where the Constitution was framed. We take you both to Philadelphia, the Cradle of Liberty and Independence Hall and to the WallBuilders’ library where David Barton brings the history to life to teach the original intent of our Founding Fathers.
We call it the QuickStart guide to the Constitution because in just a few hours through these videos you will learn the Citizen’s Guide to America’s Constitution. You’ll learn what you need to do to help save our Constitutional Republic. It’s fun! It’s entertaining! And it’s going to inspire you to do your part to preserve freedom for future generations. It’s called Constitution Alive with David Barton and Rick Green. You can find out more information on our website now at WallBuilders.com.
To go back to answer your question, you take a Founding Father like Benjamin Franklin, out of the 250, everybody will know him but he’s one of the least religious. And I do use the term “least” because that’s a comparative term. So, I’m going to give you a line from Franklin, a speech from Franklin, part of a speech that he gave at the Constitutional Convention.
It’s a really significant speech for him because Franklin is the first guy in American history to say, “Let’s have a United States of America.” Way back in 1754, the Albany Plan of Union, he said, “Let’s not be 13 colonies, let’s be united.” Didn’t happen back then. Then 22 years later he’s one of the 56 guys who signs the declaration-
He was the one who cast the vision for what we could become-
For two decades he’s been saying, “Guys!” So now he gets to sign the document that helps kind of birth that. Seven years later he’s one of only three guys who signed the peace treaty to end that. Now we’re getting really close. And four years later he’s sitting at the Constitutional Convention where we’re forming the United States. And he’s loving this, at least initially.
Five weeks in he is not loving it anymore because five weeks in the convention is falling apart. All the delegations came with their own agendas.
You had the New York plan, you had the New Jersey plan, the Connecticut plan, and Virginia plan, and guess what? New York didn’t want the Virginia plan, they wanted the New York plan.
So nobody is agreeing.
One Of The Least Religious Founding Fathers Still Quotes The Bible
Nobody is agreeing. And Franklin’s watching this fall apart. He’s been wanting this for 33 years and he’s now watching it fall apart. He’s the old man of the convention, 81 years old, by far the elder statesman.
Listen to what he says, “In this situation of this is assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth and scarcely able to distinguish it when presented to us. How has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings?
“In the beginning of the contest with Britain when we were sensible of danger. We had daily prayers in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor.
“And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time. And the longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?
“We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that except the Lord build the house they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this. And I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a byword down to future ages.”
Now, here’s one of our five least religious Founding Fathers. And what you just heard was nine sentences. Here’s the question, the nine sentences you just heard, how many Bible verses did he quote?
So is the guy that was raised in this kind of education where he was taught the Bible so it was going to come out in what he says. I recognize two or three.
No, 13 verses.
Thirteen Bible verses in 9 sentences?
Franklin quoted 13 Bible verses in 9 sentences. So here you have your least religious Founding Father who knows the Bible that well because that’s how they were raised in that generation.
Patrick Henry’s Brave Leadership
Now, let’s shift to a Founding Father that no one is going to question his faith and that’s Patrick Henry. Patrick Henry was very outspoken. We’re going to go to March 23rd, 1775. We’re at St. John church in Richmond. The reason we’re a church is because that’s where the legislature met.
So this is not church service.
It’s not. The legislature is meeting there and they’ve had what’s called, “the Gunpowder Affair” where the governors come in and take the gunpowder away from all the Virginians. And by the British Bill of Rights, you can’t do that. They have the right to keep and bear arms, have the right to defend themselves.
Now the governors come in, broken the British Bill of Rights because we haven’t separated from Great Britain yet. And the question is, “What are we going to do?” Well, Patrick Henry knew what to do. He sent and got 4,000 Virginia farmers, he got them all together, he climbed up on top of rock, he preached them a sermon out of Exodus 20, and then those 4,000 farmers went and attacked the 200 British soldiers and got all their gunpowder back.
But now we’ve got a conflict because the government has come after us violating our rights. So what are we going to do? So the argument is going, “We really need to stay with the government because they have the greatest military in the world. We’re just a bunch of farmers, there’s nothing we can do about this. We just need to do whatever they say.”
Patrick Henry says, “No, we need to do what’s right. We have laws. We should follow the law.”
Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death
Here’s what Patrick Henry said, “Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of Nature has placed in our power. Three millions of people armed in the holy cause of liberty. And in such a country as that which we possess are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, Sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations. And who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us? The battle, Sir, is not to the strong alone it is to the Vigilant, the active, and the brave.
“Gentlemen may cry, ‘Peace, peace!’ But there is no peace. The war is actually begun. The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms. Our brethren are already in the field. Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God. I know not what course others may take but as for me, Give me liberty or give me death.”
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Would You Recognize The Bible If It Were Quoted?
He made a very compelling argument. But I think today most folks would miss his argument. Because, again, in what he just did, that was 14 sentences. Same question, how many Bible verses did we just hear in 14 sentences?
I’d probably recognize less out of that one.
I’m not sure I could recognize any them.
Eleven Bible verses.
Eleven in 14 sentences.
So, 11 Bible verses in 14 sentences.
Talking about war and battle. Something that we don’t typically-
And he quoted Bible phrase, after Bible phrase, after Bible phrase. But see, they didn’t need to say back then, “I’m quoting to you out of Job 4:12.”
They know it, they recognized it. Today we need somebody to tell us, “I’m quoting the Bible” because we don’t recognize the Bible.
Nobody there in the legislature stood up and said, “We don’t like you speaking the Bible at us like that.”
They stood up and said, “We are too weak.” And you know, that was the conflict they had us. “Are we weak or strong enough?”
Is George Washington Really A Deist?
One more Founding Father. Here is a Founding Father that today we’re often told he’s a deist Founding Father, George Washington. George Washington is going to visit the various colonies. He is going around to visit these colonies, and he’s on his way to Rhode Island. And in Rhode Island, Newport there is a Hebrew Congregation in Newport. And they so appreciate everything he did for their civil and religious liberties.
And so they wrote him a glowing letter of, “We just think God raised you up, and you’re such a wonderful leader, and we thank God for you.” And so George Washington responds back with a letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport.
Look at what George Washington told that congregation, “May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwells in this land continue to minarets and enjoy the goodwill of the other inhabitants. While everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths and make us all in our own several vocations useful here. And in his own due time and way, everlastingly happy.”
Now, that’s only two sentences, same question.
And this is the supposed deist.
How many Bible verses?
No idea, in two sentences?
Nine Bible verses. And they recognized them because most of them were out of the Old Testament. So that Hebrew Congregation, “Hey, we know all that.” There are a couple of New Testament verses he used as well.
He didn’t have to reference them, he didn’t have to explain.
He didn’t have to reference them, people knew them.
It’s Time To Become Biblically Literate
See, today we’ve become Biblically illiterate. There’s a great quote by John Quincy Adams, “With regard to the history contained in the Bible. It’s not so much praiseworthy to be aware of it as it is shameful to be ignorant of it.”
We’ve come to the point where that we don’t know it.
Why is it shameful? Why is this so important? We said it had a big impact on the generation but what’s the difference if we don’t have it today in our culture?
Here’s here’s the difference, let me take this book right here. “Godless Constitution,” when somebody today says, “You have a Godless Constitution,” what they have just told me is that they are Biblically illiterate. They wouldn’t recognize a Bible verse if it bit them on the ankle.
So, we’re back to not recognizing the idioms and not recognizing even in the constitution Biblical references.
That’s right, even in the Constitution Bible verse after Bible verse in the Constitution. And what brought us to that point of success as a nation was the Bible undergirded even with Franklin. The Bible undergirded his thinking and what he said and how he communicated and they understood those principles because it’s not just religious stuff. This is true, tried, and tested principles that work. And if you use these things, and by the way we used them and it did work.
Well, folks, we’re out of time for today. We’re almost finished with that first episode from Foundations of Freedom. It’s it’s called, “The Founders Bible” and we’re going to pick up the final conclusion of that tomorrow when we start WallBuilders Live. And then we’ll get the second episode with Michele Bachmann on the Foundations of Law. So be sure and join us tomorrow here on WallBuilders Live!